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.”