Defensive back is a position on the Chicago Bears where depth could be a serious issue if an injury were to befall one of the starters. The fact that there are Pro Bowl talents at every level of the defense would of course counteract any drop off in skills in the back end, but I’m still concerned about one particular starter on the D.
Corner Prince Amukamara just finished his eighth season in the NFL, which was arguably his best year as a pro, but it’s all too common to see skills start to erode when players play as long as Prince has. He just turned 30-years old, and even though he has been relatively healthy the last few years (only 5 missed games since 2016), he’s also powered his way through a few minor injuries during his time in Chicago. At some point the body simply can’t bounce back from strains, bruises, and pulls like it used to and if Amukamara goes down, the Bears are in trouble.
The first outside corner off the bench for the Bears in 2018 was undrafted free agent Kevin Toliver II, and he looks to be the top reserve again in 2019. He started one game a year ago while appearing in 15, and while nothing he did stood out too negatively, he also didn’t have any positive plays that come to mind either. Maybe his year one to year two jump will be significant, but I’d feel more comfortable about the corners if there was better depth.
The Bears did add Buster Skrine, who has some outside experience, but he’s probably going to be competing for slot corner. The other outside corners on the roster are all young and untested, although new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano may elect to work veteran Sherrick McManis in there.
With the corner depth being a question mark, you may be wondering why I put Amukamara here over Kyle Fuller, who just made First Team All-Pro after leading the league in passes defended and interceptions. It’s because I expect the 27-year old Fuller to have another outstanding season in Chicago, but Amukamara’s age and injury history makes him a candidate for a drop in production.
Perhaps I’m taking him for granted, but seeing Fuller out there at his customary left cornerback spot is something I expect in 2019.
Even though Amukamara is signed through 2020, there’s an easy out in his contract after this year. If he struggles at all this is likely his final year in Chicago, because a million dollars in dead cap space isn’t that big a determinant in today’s NFL. He’s essentially in a contract year and him playing at a high level would make it tough for the the Bears to cut him.