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Training Camp Battle: Elijah Hicks vs Kendall Williamson

We know Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker are going to be the starting safeties, but what will the depth look like behind them?

Chicago Bears Offseason Workout Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As we continue to look at potential training camp battles at positions, we come to the safety position where there may not be much of a competition here at all. We know Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker are going to be the starting safeties and if they remain healthy, they will be on the field for 100% of the defensive snaps, so the depth at this position when both are healthy isn’t too important.

Unfortunately for the Chicago Bears, Eddie Jackson has missed eight games over the last two years and being he turns 30 this year, there’s certainly no guarantee that he will be healthy for 17 games this year.

I would much rather be writing about the battle for the top back-up safety position between Elijah Hicks and DeAndre Houston-Carson, but Ryan Poles chose to let DHC walk, even though he’s still available if he changes his mind. Houston-Carson has been a key member of the Bears’ special teams and played surprising well on defense when he was forced into that role. I was surprised he wasn’t re-signed considered his very affordable price tag, but Poles has moved on so we must as well.

That means Elijah Hicks is almost certainly going to be the back-up safety and going to see defensive snaps if either Jackson or Brisker miss time. His competition for that spot is going to be rookie Kendall Williamson. Williamson was taken in the seventh round and the 258th pick overall. That made him one spot shy of being labeled Mr. Irrelevant, the final pick of the draft.

The idea that Williamson could step in as a rookie and immediately earn the third safety spot is a long shot. The argument could be made that Hicks makes the 53 as the only other safety on the roster and they stash Williamson on the practice squad. If there’s an injury at safety, Hicks is elevated to the starting spot and Williamson is elevated off the practice squad. It’s something you have to figure Matt Eberflus will consider being the argument could be made that there aren’t 4 safeties worthy of a 53-man roster spot on this 90-man roster.

I mean, you could make the argument that Hicks shouldn’t be on a 53-man roster either. When Hicks was thrust into a starting role last season, he struggled mightily. Hicks had seven passes thrown his way, six were completed for 176 yards and 2 touchdowns. Quarterbacks had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 against him. He was just a rookie, so hopefully he improves significantly, but in OTAs, when Hicks was on the field with the first-team defense, Justin Fields threw the ball his direction and made big plays consistently.

If Hicks doesn’t improve, perhaps Williamson can take the job from him. Williamson is a smart player (first team Academic All-American at Stanford) who has good instincts and has good athleticism. Unfortunately, Williamson misses a lot of tackles and doesn’t seem to have good range in coverage which is critical at the safety position. Hopefully with some coaching, Williamson can use his intelligence and athleticism to overcome his weaknesses and be able to make an impact on Sundays.

Safety depth isn’t too important if your starting safeties are healthy, but the Bears depth at this position is considerably weak. If they have an injury to a starter, there is going to be a liability on the field. Hopefully training camp shows us that one of these two players is ready to take a big step forward.