In recent memory the Chicago Bears' nickelback has been a playmaker. Guys like Ricky Manning Jr., D.J. Moore, Corey Graham and Kelvin Hayden were always around the ball, capable of picking up a game changing turnover or knocking down a pass.
Last year Isaiah Frey played nickelback in all 16 games for Bears, and when thinking about Frey's 2013 season I honestly can't recall anything he did. Nothing. No splashy plays, but also no glaring mistakes.
According to NFL.com, Frey had 37 solo tackles and 10 assisted tackles in 16 games. He had zero interceptions, no fumble recoveries and no forced fumbles. They had him down for only 1 pass defended, although there's a chance that's a typo. Pro Football Reference and Pro Football Focus had Frey down for zero pass breakups.
We'll give Frey the benefit of the doubt and let him have the 1 pass defended, so in over 500 defensive snaps he touched the football one time.
That's no going to get it done in the NFL.
But then I got to thinking... He had no glaring mistakes either. There were no blown coverages that come to mind, no missed tackles that I recall costing the Bears. Maybe his undistinguished play had something to do the injury riddled front seven from the 2013 Bears.
It's certainly possible.
I was willing to give a bit of a pass to Chicago's safety play last year because their pass rush was nonexistent and their run defense was even worse. Maybe the reason Frey was nearly invisible was because the overall play of the D was bad.
Frey was all over the field at Training Camp 2013. He was creating turnovers and knocking down passes just about every day in practice and he had an interception in the all important 3rd preseason game that year. Even though he wasn't their 1st option at nickel, he seemed to have done enough to win the job on his own merits.
Frey was hurt this preseason so he wasn't able to show the Bears enough to warrant a spot on the final roster. He also wasn't able to put together any good tape for the other 31 teams to offer him a job. Chicago figured they could cut him, bring him back to their practice squad, then promote him when needed. I don't think the Bears expected to promote him before week three, but once Charles Tillman went to injured reserve, the need for Frey was there.
Maybe with an improved front seven, some added wisdom and a bulked up frame (he's up nearly 10 pounds over last year) Isaiah Frey will be able to make the most of his second chance.
What are your thoughts on Frey playing nickel tonight for the Bears?