Bears

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for the safeties

Bears training camp preview: 3 burning questions for the safeties

With training camp starting later this month, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ units heading into Bourbonnais. Today’s group: The safeties. 

1. Who starts at free safety?

Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson appear to be the headliners of this competition heading into training camp. Amos is an interesting player, not having an interception in over 1,800 career plays but receiving high marks from the folks at Pro Football Focus, who dubbed him a “secret superstar.” (https://twitter.com/PFF/status/883827042168565761) But coming off a season in which the Bears only forced 11 takeaways, Amos is hardly guaranteed to keep his starting gig. Enter Jackson, the fourth round Alabama safety who has good range and showed solid ball skills while in college. Provided he’s fully recovered from a broken leg suffered in October, Jackson will have a shot to start as a rookie.

“He’s wired right, he understands the game, in the classroom setting, questions and answers, he gets it,” coach John Fox said of Jackson. “He’ll get plenty of time in Bourbonnais.”

2. What will Quintin Demps bring to the secondary?

Demps is 32 years old but doesn’t feel like an elder statesman — “I’m still in my prime, man,” he said last month — but was signed to bring a steady veteran presence to a malfunctioning secondary. Demps picked off six passes — more than half of the Bears’ turnover total — in 2016, but a year before that only managed one interception with the Houston Texans. But that fluctuation didn’t worry Demps, who said his mentality is to tackle first and cover his assignments and let turnovers come to him. It’s a mindset he’s already working to impart on his fellow safeties, even if he doesn’t see himself as the old guy of the group. 

“There’s no formula to it,” Demps said. “Just do your job the best you can and you gotta use your instincts a lot. But you gotta do your job first and help out, and they’ll come to you.” 

3. Will Deiondre’ Hall stick at safety?

Hall flashed potential at cornerback last year but the Bears (and Hall) saw a better opportunity to get him on the field by teaching him some flexibility at safety. The 6-foot-2, 201 pound Hall played some safety at Northern Iowa, so he’s not foreign to the position. The hope for the Bears is, at the least, Hall can provide depth at one position, but his ability to play cornerback as well should help strengthen his case to help out the Bears in 2017. 

‘He had some experience there in college,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: