Third in a series
Who’s in: Ryan Mundy, Antrel Rolle
Where do they fit? Brock Vereen
The Bears spent a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft to move up into the 2014 fourth round and select Brock Vereen. Vereen was able to log some time in the starting lineup last year because of injuries to Chris Conte, but he starts this offseason behind veterans Antrel Rolle and Ryan Mundy and will be pressed to earn snaps in his second season.
Mundy led the Bears in tackles last season, was a teammate of Rolle’s for a season with the New York Giants, and was among the few steady performers in an abysmal 2015 Bears defense. Rolle joins his third NFL team with a coach eager for what he brings to the locker room as well as the secondary.
[MORE - Bears clearly thinking 'outside' the box at linebacker]
“I think he’s been one of the more productive safeties in the league over the last few years,” said coach John Fox. “I think he understands the game. I think he plays the game fast. I think he understands how to prepare for NFL football games. I think that is contagious. I think when younger players see that model they help us as a football team.”
Conte is gone, to Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Danny McCray took the free safety job from Vereen early in training camp last year, then struggled and eventually lost out to Conte, but did have a 10-tackle game in the Bears’ win over the New York Jets.
But the signing of Rolle at age 32 was an indicator of what coach and GM thought about the state of the deep secondary.
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“Not beating up guys we have, but going in and looking at tape and seeing areas we maybe need improvement, it might just be doing it every day better,” Fox said of how it improves. “And then you play better. But I’ve really thought that Antrel Rolle would help that process.”
The Chicago Bears are counting on Mitch Trubisky to have a breakout season in 2018. His rookie year was strong, but for the Bears to emerge as a playoff contender, the second-year passer must enjoy a Jared Goff-like improvement.
There's no doubting the talent Trubisky possesses in his right arm. And with a plethora of new weapons at his disposal, his production should make him appealing to fantasy football owners. But he may do more than just throw touchdowns.
"I'd definitely like to catch some touchdowns and some passes, that would be cool," Trubisky said at Halas Hall after Wednesday's OTAs. "The sky's the limit with this offense, just the creativeness that these coaches bring, there's going to be a lot of fun plays. We get the base ones down first and hopefully, we can have some fun trick plays."
Trey Burton was signed in free agency to provide a weapon for Trubisky at tight end, but he may end up throwing a few passes before the year is out. He was on the quarterback end of the famous Super Bowl LII touchdown pass (the Philly Special) to Nick Foles and spent time at quarterback as a freshman at the University of Florida.
Don't forget about Tarik Cohen, either. He attempted two passes in 2017, completing one for a touchdown (21 yards) to Zach Miller.
Trubisky is the kind of rare athlete at quarterback who an offensive coordinator can legitimately devise a few trick plays for, adding just another wrinkle in the new-era of Bears offensive football set to launch in September.
Mitch Trubisky met with reporters after OTAs on Wednesday and addressed the NFL owners' unanimous approval of a new national anthem policy that requires players to stand if they are on the field while it's performed. If they don't want to stand, they can remain in the locker room or teams will be subject to fines.
The Bears avoided the media firestorm around the national anthem last season. No one on the roster kneeled. Instead, teammates locked arms and Trubisky believes it will be more of the same in 2018.
"I’m just proud of how our team handled last year. It's in the past and I believe we’ll all stand on the field together this year," Trubisky told reporters at Halas Hall. "It is what it is. I think it’s all about eliminating distractions for the team and for the audience. Just represent yourself and the organization in the right manner.”
STANKEVITZ: NFL Anthem policy won’t keep Sam Acho, others from standing up for what they believe in
Trubisky is the unquestioned leader of the Bears, only one year removed from Mike Glennon's proclamation that this was his team. Now, with a new coach and elevated expectations, Trubisky must weather the off-field issues that naturally come with a leadership role.
No off-field issue is bigger than a comment by the President of the United States, which happened Thursday in response to the national anthem policy during in an interview on "Fox and Friends".
“Well, I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good," Trump said. "You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”
This is an issue that isn't going away anytime soon. Fortunately, Trubisky appears ready to shoulder the heavy burden and potential strain a social issue like this can bring to a locker room.