The defense that has prided itself on not allowing big plays in part because of the safety net has become one of the most victimized in the NFL this season. The reason obviously has not been solely the fault of the safeties forming that net. But neither Chris Conte nor Major Wright will claim this season as a good one, particularly for Wright in a contract year.
“Sometimes a guy gets beat man to man,” coach Marc Trestman said, addressing breakdowns in multiple areas. “Sometimes their eyes are in the backfield, and because their eyes are in the backfield and not on the man in man-to-man coverage, they lost their man, and these are things we’ve got to get better in and work at. We’re not where we wanted to be. We’re not even close.”
Safety was a position in near constant flux through much of the Lovie Smith tenure. That looked to be settling after the Bears invested third-round picks on Wright (2009) and Conte (2010), at which time the personnel carousel slowed as Conte developed and Wright learned to play with greater control.
But the Bears do not have to look outside their roster for competition, which is expected to begin in earnest when the team returns from the off week.
Anthony Walters, is 1-0 as a “starter.” He started at free safety for Conte in the win over Detroit in game 16 last season.
Craig Steltz started five games at strong safety in 2011, both when Wright was down with an injury and when Wright was shifted to free safety for the last two games after Conte went on IR. Steltz also started two games at strong safety in 2008.
That GM Phil Emery spent another No. 3 on a safety (Brandon Hardin, 2012) suggests that the Bears were not entirely settled on what they had at the positions.
“It’s not relative to talent,” Trestman said. “It’s just relative of everybody being in the right place at the right time.”