Since the days of Mike Brown, the safety position has been a revolving door for the Chicago Bears. The tragedy of that fact is that the Bears' defense relies heavily on that position. In most instances, the Bears' scheme is based around a variation of the Tampa-2. Part of that scheme entails that the corner backs often engage with the receivers close to the line and rely on a form of zone coverage thereafter. The thought is to get pressure on the quarterback before those receivers are loose and in the open. The safeties remain deep so as to avoid the big-play threat --it also leaves a black hole in the middle areas. Without that defensive quarterback pressure, the scheme's effectiveness dissolves. The Bears' safeties are especially important because they are often the only line of defense between a receiver and a huge play.
The above is why the Bears need good safeties to maintain their defensive game plan. When they don't, disaster ensues. Look no further than the first few weeks of last season --Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather were the starting safeties. While the point totals aren't pretty --30, 27, 29, 24 -- the number of big plays was more alarming. Big plays mean a twofold problem --no defensive line pressure and no safety containment.
Whenever the Bears draft a safety I get hopeful, patiently waiting for another Mike Brown to stabilize the position. While Major Wright and Chris Conte brought much needed balance to the position last year, I wouldn't say they played elite-level safety. Disclaimer: I'm not saying I think Brandon Hardin will either. However, after Hardin's ugly neck injury against the Washington Redskins, he's been placed on injured reserve. Hardin has shown promise in training camp and I (and the Bears) was looking forward to seeing what he could bring. With Hardin out, the Bears are alarmingly thin at the safety position --the depth was questionable before Hardin's injury. With Wright and Conte already having injuries in their short careers, I find myself nervous about the position.
About the same time, wide receiver Johnny Knox was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. This means he will not play in the first six games of the regular season. It doesn't mean that he will automatically be back when his time on the PUP list is up, but from a fan's perspective, it is nice to see there is still some hope that Knox will return at some point this season. However, for the first time ever, I can confidently say that the Bears are set at wide receiver. Whenever he returns, Knox will be another lane on the highway, not the highway itself. That should allow him to get himself totally better. I know us Bears fans are excited for him to get back on the field.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed the NFL throughout.