Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 2:24 a.m.
By John Mullin
Seventh in a series
The defense had three players with four or more interceptions last season, the first time for that in a quarter-century and the only secondary with that distinction in 2010. The interception total jumped from 10 in 2009 to 16, and the Bears interception percentage ranked eighth in the NFL.
But passing yards per game allowed was 20th and there are issues looming in a key area of the Lovie Smith defensive scheme.
The investment of a third-round pick last draft in Major Wright should take care of one safety spot for some years, and Chris Harris veteran presence was a positive at age 29. But Danieal Manning is intent on testing free agency after his best season and Craig Steltz was disappointing after having his best offseason, so starter-grade depth is missing at safety.
The bigger concern is cornerback, where Charles Tillman turns 30 after a high-impact career that saw him play 16 games for the first time since his rookie year. Zackary Bowman was given Tillmans LCB job but promptly lost it to Tim Jennings early in the year. Joshua Moore is a wild-card, a fifth-rounder last season who barely played but is considered to have real upside.
D.J. Moore justified Lovie Smiths belief in him and secured the nickel-back spot. But the falloff of Nathan Vasher over recent seasons set the defensive plan back substantially and the quest is on for a starting corner in an NFC North with Calvin Johnson in Detroit and a cluster of receiving talent in Green Bay.
Need: The Bears addressed cornerback with picks in a third round (Roosevelt Williams, 2002), second round (Tillman, 2003) and fourth round (Vasher, 2004). Since then only Moore (fourth round, 2009) came sooner than the fifth round. That is likely to change this year and could be a surprise first-round pick depending on the fall of the selections.
The 2011 draft
Two cornerbacks are expected to go inside the first 15 picks and then there are few sure things for various reasons. Chances of landing an immediate starter lower than the first 40 picks are doubtful but different systems require different player-types and at least one or two will be prime fits for the Bears.
Even Patrick Peterson out of LSU, the consensus top defensive back in the draft, comes with fit questions. Hes most comfortable in press-man, said NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock. If you try to play him in off-man hes going to struggle a little bit.
Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki projects Prince Amukamara from Nebraska going No. 11 to the Houston Texans and new coordinator Wade Phillips. Nawrocki also shows Colorados Jimmy Smith coming off the board No. 13 to the Detroit Lions, who, like the Bears, have some matchup problems to overcome in the NFC North.
The Best Bets:
(CSNChicago.com is taking Peterson and Prince Amukamara from Nebraska off the board far ahead of the Bears turn at No. 29.)
1. Aaron Williams, Texas Some mock drafts have the Bears taking Williams after the OLDL value is gone ahead of them. Williams has started at three DB spots and brings Tillman-like size (5-11, 204) to the CB spot.
2. Jimmy Smith, Colorado Some concerns about consistency but that applies to many, many collegians. Had some off-field issues but at 6-2, he is the physical prototype of the big corner.
3. Brandon Harris, Miami Size is a question after Harris measured sub-5-10 but has run 4.4 at 191 pounds and can play both cornerback and safety.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.