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.