Bears

Three questions for Bears safeties: Does Adrian Amos have a future in Chicago?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears safeties: Does Adrian Amos have a future in Chicago?

Pre-camp depth chart

1. Adrian Amos
2. Deon Bush
3. Deiondre Hall

1. Eddie Jackson
2. DeAndre Houston-Carson
3. Nick Orr

1. Will Adrian Amos get a second contract?

Pro Football Focus ranked Amos as the second-best safety in the NFL last year, behind only Minnesota’s Harrison Smith, which may not necessarily align with the Bears’ view of him (or, to be fair, that of the rest of the league). If the Bears really thought they had one of the two best safeties in the league on their defense, he’d already be signed to a contract extension, most likely. 

The Bears like Amos, of course. But do they view him as a good, not great player who could potentially be replaceable after the season? Or do they view the 25-year-old as a long-term piece of this defense? 

We’ll figure out the answers to those questions by how Ryan Pace approaches a possible second contract for Amos. While the free agent market for safeties was slow this year — Tre Boston, PFF’s No. 30 safety, only signed a one-year, $900,000 deal, for example — there are 28 safeties with contracts carrying an average annual value of at least $5 million. 

Amos only has one interception in 2,638 career snaps, and is a year removed from being shoved down the depth chart after the additions of Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson. He still has room to improve, and has plenty to prove. 

If he and the Bears are on the same page regarding his value, we may see a deal get done before the season. If not, Amos will go into 2018 with plenty of motivation to earn a sizable payday in 2019. 

2. Can Eddie Jackson improve on a solid rookie year?

Jackson showed a playmaking streak as a rookie, picking off two passes, breaking up four others, forcing a fumble and scoring two touchdowns (which were the only two touchdowns of the Bears’ 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers). The fourth-round pick earned high marks for his durability, too, playing 99.7 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps a year after his college career was cut short by a broken leg. 

“(He) reminds me of a player that can do it all,” coach Matt Nagy said. “He can hit, he has great ball skills, he has good speed and is smart. As a rookie last year for him coming into his own and this year being a second year guy to play, we want him to get a little bit better from last year. I was impressed with him.”

Jackson very well could be another mid-round find by Pace, who previously unearthed Amos, Jordan Howard and Nick Kwiatkoski with fourth/fifth-round picks. There’s a little more pressure on Jackson to play well this year, given he arguably has the best ball skills of any player in the Bears’ secondary — and if this defense is going to improve off the eight interceptions they’ve managed in each of the last three years, Jackson may need to play a big role in it. 

3. Can anyone from the 2016 rookie class step up?

That this is the third question we have about the Bears’ safety unit actually speaks to a strength here. It’s seemingly been an annual rite of passage every spring to wonder how the Bears will address their safety unit; that the Bears neither signed nor drafted a safety this year speaks to the solidity of the Amos-Jackson pairing. 

Still, the Bears need depth, and chances are it’ll come from a group of players entering their third years in the NFL. Deon Bush, DeAndre Houston-Carson and Deiondre’ Hall will all need to be ready to step in and succeed in place of Amos or Jackson, with only undrafted free agent Nick Orr in place to provide some camp competition. 

So while there won’t be much of a competition for a starting gig, there will be some important work done on the second and third teams of this defense to see who will earn their way into being the first guy off the bench. 
 

Week 3 NFL picks: Over 90 percent of experts pick Bears to defeat Cardinals

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USA TODAY

Week 3 NFL picks: Over 90 percent of experts pick Bears to defeat Cardinals

The Bears aren’t going to take the Arizona Cardinals lightly on Sunday, but Chicago isn’t expected to have too much trouble with their Week 3 opponent.

The Cardinals have scored six points through two games, shutout last week against the Los Angeles Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford has struggled and his offensive line has been a big reason for it, making another favorable matchup for Khalil Mack to continue his strong start.

Few experts expect the Cardinals to pull off the upset, with over 90 percent of NFL prognosticators picking the Bears to win, according to NFL Pick Watch.

Analysts from CBS and MMQB as well as the analytics from FiveThirtyEight are picking against Chicago this week, while every Pro Football Focus analyst picked the Bears across the board.

The Cardinals are nearly touchdown underdogs by Las Vegas betting lines, and sportsbooks see the game as one of the lowest-scoring matchups of the weekend.

Arizona hasn’t had much offensive success this season, but with talent like David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, an upset is only ever a few plays away. The Cardinals defense has done well in spite of the team’s struggles, and this game won’t be a walk in the park for the Bears on the road.

(Too) Bold Predictions: Big games for Leonard Floyd, Kevin White

(Too) Bold Predictions: Big games for Leonard Floyd, Kevin White

You've stumbled into (Too) Bold Predictions, a weekly column that is exactly what it sounds like! Here, we'll take nuanced, well-researched information and use to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

 

J.J. Stankevitz 

 

1. Leonard Floyd has a breakout game.

A year ago, Floyd had a monster game against Sam Bradford, dropping the then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback twice, one of which went for a safety. Floyd does the same on Sunday, recording his first two sacks of the season in his first game not playing with a club on his right hand. A reason for that optimism: Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries allowed 10 pressures in 70 pass blocking snaps in Weeks 1 and 2. This should be a good matchup for Floyd, and without the club on his hand, he takes advantage of it. We'll say the "breakout" game is at least two sacks and five total pressures.

 

2. Mitch Trubisky will hit multiple shots downfield.

Trubisky missed Taylor Gabriel and Allen Robinson on Monday night on throws that could've backed the Seahawks' defense off the line of scrimmage. Connecting on those deep shots is critical for freeing up more room for Jordan Howard, especially against a Cardinals defense that's had success stopping the run (3.6 yards/carry, sixth in the NFL). But the Cardinals' defense has been gouged through the air, allowing 9.8 yards per attempt (31st). Trubisky will complete two deep throws in the Bears' first two drives, which will lead to a much easier path for offensive success on Sunday.

 

Cam Ellis

 

1. Tarik Cohen will take one to the house.

 Cohen hasn't contributed too heavily to the offense yet, though you could make that argument for just about anyone not named Allen Robinson. That's less the case on special teams: after averaging 9.38 yards per return last season, Cohen's  jumped up to 17.17 this year (though it's still a bit early to be taking averages seriously). It's part of why the Bears have the 5th-best special teams according to Football Outsiders' S.T. DVOA. In honor of Devin Hester and the Bears' 2006 comeback in Arizona, my bet is that Cohen, who landed on the NFL All-Pro team last year for punt returns, breaks the game open with a  touchdown of 50+ yards. 

 

2. Kevin White will tie his career high in catches 

After playing 12 snaps in Week 1 (12%), White only played two snaps (3%) against the Seahawks in Week 2. Arizona has the 30th-ranked pass defense, per Football Outsiders, so there's going to be plenty of eating to go around. With all eyes on Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White -- should he play -- is going to get a lot of one-on-one matchups. White snagged six catches in games against Dallas and Detroit in 2016, and he'll resurface for at least one game against one of the league's worst pass defenses.