Bears: Rolle signing creates squeeze on Vereen, safety jobs


Bears: Rolle signing creates squeeze on Vereen, safety jobs

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.”

Bears vs. Redskins: Case Keenum confident Washington will 'move the ball and score touchdowns'

Bears vs. Redskins: Case Keenum confident Washington will 'move the ball and score touchdowns'

The Chicago Bears are entering Week 3's Monday night game against the Washington Redskins with a defense that, to no one's surprise, is ranked among the NFL's elite once again.

New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano hasn't missed a beat in 2019. The Bears are ranked fourth in total yards allowed per game and are sixth against the run. They've been getting to the quarterback, too, ranking sixth in total sacks through two games.

So, yeah, the Redskins offense has their work cut out for them. Washington's starting QB Case Keenum knows how good the Bears defense is, but remains confident.

"Well they do a lot of stuff well, they’re ranked pretty high in a lot of categories," Keenum said of Chicago's defense Wednesday. "Up-front, obviously, with the guy they got last year in that trade, it makes them, it brings them to a whole other level, up-front I think we got our work cut out for us.

"They’ve got a lot of depth, a lot of experience on the back end, some guys who’ve played together a long time. I know they got a new defensive coordinator, but they got a lot of experience playing together, so their communication skills, as far as making the right checks and stuff, they do a good job of disguising a lot of stuff, so recognizing coverages, recognizing fronts, and then knowing our plan to attack those is gonna be key."

The Redskins played better than expected over the last two weeks against opponents who also feature strong defenses. Despite sitting at 0-2, Washington played both the Eagles and Cowboys tough.

"I don’t know if there’s anything we take away from them being great defenses," Keenum said of the Redskins' early-season opponents. "We’re confident, whoever we play, we’re gonna line up and move the ball and go score touchdowns. Everybody in this league is really good, and we got our work cut out for us again, I wouldn’t have it any other way."

Keenum is off to a hot start in 2019 and will challenge the Bears' secondary, maybe even more than most fans are expecting right now. He's completed 69 percent of his passes for 601 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions so far this year, numbers that look more like what Chicago was hoping for from Mitch Trubisky than what was projected for a journeyman like Keenum.

As defending NFC North champs, the Bears are embracing all that comes with the national spotlight

As defending NFC North champs, the Bears are embracing all that comes with the national spotlight

When the Bears head to D.C. next Monday, it'll be their second nationally-televised game in three weeks. It's not dissimilar from 2018's start, when they started with back-to-back Sunday nights: first in Green Bay (remember?!) and then the home opener vs. Seattle. 

Last year, that Seahawks game would be the last nationally-viewed Bears game until they played in Detroit on Thanksgiving almost two months later. Flexed Sunday night games against the Rams and in Minnesota made it 4 on the season. 

Things are a bit different this season. As it stands today, the Bears are scheduled to be on national broadcasts five more times this year, and seven times on the season.  Two weeks after D.C. they'll be in London against the Raiders, and then have Sunday night games against the Rams, Cowboys, and Chiefs. Throw in another noon Thanksgiving kickoff in Detroit and that's a whole lot of exposure. 

"Bring the prime time, bring the prime time," linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "That’s what we strive for, that’s what we wanted. Coach talked about being 100… that’s prime time." 

There have been a lot of night games in the Matt Nagy era, a testament to how quickly he brought the franchise back into the national conversation. It's not without it's cons, but that many late kickoffs means you're doing something well. 

"There’s a little bit more attitude when you’re playing on Thursday night, Sunday night, Monday night," said Allen Robinson. "You know the whole world is watching – there’s only one game on at that time." 

"Everybody’s watching," Trevathan added. "And it’s a chance for us to go ahead and play our type of ball, come away with a dub, and put it on for the whole world to see."