Four Downs: Safety still a major concern?
May, 16, 2014
Getty Images, AP PhotoThere will be plenty of competition at safety, but should the Bears add another veteran?With the draft in the books, the Chicago Bears get an up close look at their eight picks and undrafted free agents during this weekend's rookie minicamp, beginning Friday.
While many questions have been answered in free agency and now the draft, many remain. Our panel takes a look at some as the Bears kick off their first rookie workouts:
Fact or Fiction: Even after free agency and the draft, safety is still a major concern for the Bears.
Ryan Mundy is the closest thing to a starter based on the amount of guaranteed money he received from the Bears when he signed in the offseason, but after Mundy the picture is fuzzy. Will Chris Conte have a bounce-back year following shoulder surgery? Is rookie Brock Vereen ready to make an impact as a rookie? Will the Bears give Craig Steltz an opportunity to be a full-time starter? All these questions will eventually be answered, but until they are, safety remains a concern.
Wright: Fact. Mundy and Conte, who is coming off shoulder surgery, appear to be the most viable options as this team's starting safeties, and I'm not sure whether fourth-round pick Brock Vereen can seriously challenge for one of those jobs. Vereen obviously possesses several enticing traits athletically, but the Bears probably need to add a veteran at some point before the start of camp (so the new addition has a legitimate chance to learn the system) to really ramp up the competition at safety. It doesn't appear that the Bears did enough in the draft to address the safety position, but at the same time, there weren't many options, as Vereen was the best available after the team decided to grab Kyle Fuller earlier in the draft.
Fact or Fiction: Kyle Fuller is poised to make the biggest impact of any Bears rookie.
Jeff Dickerson: Fact. Fuller is going to be on the field around 60 percent of the snaps every week. In fact, the Bears used three cornerbacks 70 to 80 percent of the time last season in a couple of games. Nickel cornerbacks in the NFL are essentially viewed as the 12th starter on defense. Fuller will have plenty of chances to make plays on the ball beginning in Week 1, as long as he stays healthy and develops as expected. First-round picks are expected to contribute immediately. Fuller will be no different.
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastKyle Fuller should get plenty of opportunities to make an impact as a nickel corner.
Michael C. Wright: Fact. But only because Fuller will be given more of an opportunity to do so since he'll probably be the team's starting nickel corner. Running back Ka'Deem Carey could possibly make an impact, too. But he won't be on the field nearly as much as Fuller. With Fuller, the Bears will have some scheme versatility because of the rookie's wide-ranging skill set, and I expect the coaches to line him up in various spots on the field in different situations to take advantage of what he can do.
Fact or Fiction: The Bears should have signed a rookie free-agent punter rather than using a draft pick on one.
Pat O'Donnell can be a weapon for them on special teams. His college career accomplishments at Cincinnati and Miami are impressive. The only way taking a punter in the draft can be considered a mistake is if he doesn't make the team out of camp. I find it hard to believe (barring injury or an off-the-field incident) that anyone besides O'Donnell will punt the ball for the Bears in 2014.
Wright: Fiction. If you like a player, you draft him. It's not as though the Bears dove into uncharted waters by drafting a punter. Several teams have done it and will continue to do it. Considering the Bears took O'Donnell in the sixth round instead of later, the team obviously liked what he brings to the table. Former Bears punter Adam Podlesh was a fourth-round pick in 2007 by Jacksonville, and the only reason he ended up leaving for Chicago was the Jaguars couldn't afford to pay him. So to circle back around, if a team likes a player and thinks he can help, it should draft him. That's what the Bears did with O'Donnell.
Fact or Fiction: Jordan Lynch will make the team and contribute this season.
Dickerson: Fiction. Lynch impressed me at the NFL combine in February with his attitude and confidence. He impressed me even further when he worked out in front of NFL scouts at multiple positions, instead of steadfastly clinging to the idea he had to play quarterback at the next level. I'm excited that Lynch signed a free-agent deal with the Bears and will have the opportunity to be on an NFL roster in the preseason. But it could be a stretch to assume Lynch will make the team or make an impact in his rookie season. Perhaps a better short-term goal is for Lynch to earn a spot on the Bears' practice squad next season. But this is all premature until we witness how Lynch acclimates to his position change from quarterback to running back over the next several months.
AP Photo/Jeff HaynesJordan Lynch will get a chance to prove he belongs in the NFL with the Bears.
Wright: Fiction. This is a difficult one to try to predict because although Lynch was a read-option quarterback at Northern Illinois, it's hard to envision how his skill set as a runner will transfer as a running back. Lynch passed for 51 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions in college, while completing 61.8 percent of his throws. To me, that warrants consideration for at least a shot to play his natural position. But as a running back, I don't think Lynch will make the roster, and I certainly don't expect him to contribute as a rookie playing out of his natural position. Hopefully, Lynch proves me wrong.