Bears

Adrian Amos is giving the Bears an amazing bang for their buck this year

Adrian Amos is giving the Bears an amazing bang for their buck this year

In terms of bang for their buck, the Bears have — at least, according to Pro Football Focus — the most valuable “cheap” player in the NFL. And he wasn’t even starting when the season began. 

That player is safety Adrian Amos, who Pro Football Focus rates as the second-best safety in the NFL. One-hundred and six safeties make more money than Amos, a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft whose cap hit is $673,070 this year, according to Spotrac. 

Even if you hold some skepticism for PFF’s grading system, Amos’ success this year has been clear. The 24-year-old is third on the Bears with 32 tackles, four tackles for a loss and three pass break-ups despite playing one defensive snap in Weeks 1 and 2. He forced and recovered a critical fumble against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and had a 90-yard pick six against the Baltimore Ravens, but has been generally solid both in run support and against the pass since taking over for an injured Quintin Demps in September. 

“I think he’s on the proper path,” defensive backs coach Ed Donatell said. “He came back really focused in camp and working hard and he wasn’t starting at first but he was really in tune as a backup, and then he got his shot. His game, everybody can see it, it’s better in all areas.”

The Bears signed Demps to a three-year deal and used a fourth-round pick on Eddie Jackson earlier this year as part of the team’s efforts to overhaul a secondary that didn’t make enough plays in 2016. Amos was part of that takeaway problem last year, and before he picked off that pass in Baltimore, he had played about 2,000 career snaps without an interception. 

But credit should be given to Amos for, by all accounts, taking the right approach to losing his starting gig to Jackson and Demps. Not only has Amos ably replaced Demps in the Bears’ starting lineup, he might actually represent an upgrade alongside Jackson. 

“He’s a very prideful kid,” Donatell said. “He works hard and he wants to be a good pro. Safeties are pairs. Him and Eddie have blended together really well, they work together, they communicate. They have a good presence of each other, and that’s really important.”

Amos played every single defensive snap the Bears had in October, all while continuing to play on special teams (it was Amos who checked into Pat O’Donnell’s fake punt touchdown to Benny Cunningham Oct. 9 against the Minnesota Vikings). He hasn’t been satisfied with his performance — he pointed to some missed tackles he had against New Orleans, which he recognized were a problem and separate from the fumble he forced. 

“This past game, I feel like this wasn’t one of my best games, but I got a turnover, so it makes it look better from the outside-in,” Amos said. “But me, myself, I look at how I’m playing each and every day, am I making my tackles, making my adjustments, am I solid in my fits. Stats look good at the end of the day, but I try to look at where I can be better individually.”

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

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Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: