Adrian Amos

How Adrian Amos views his 'secret superstar' Pro Football Focus grade

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How Adrian Amos views his 'secret superstar' Pro Football Focus grade

Adrian Amos knows what’s out there. Specifically, this:

Pro Football Focus’s grades ranked Amos as the third-best safety in the NFL last year, behind only the Vikings’ Harrison Smith and the Rams’ Lamarcus Joyner and ahead of big-name Pro Bowlers like the Seahawks’ Earl Thomas and the Giants’ Landon Collins. That's lofty territory for a guy who doesn't carry the same kind of star power as the other top safeties in the league. 

So that leads us to this question: How does a player like Amos approach such a strong endorsement of his game from an evaluation made outside Halas Hall?

“I see it, but it’s like — it’s flattering that you graded out with some of the other safeties that are the top safeties in the league that you watch,” Amos said. “So it’s not saying — I don’t take it as saying I’m the second-best safety in the league, I take it as saying that I’m grading out as one. So I’m on my assignments, I’m making the plays I’m supposed to make when the ball is coming my way, I’m making the plays. So I take it as that. 

“It doesn’t hurt my confidence, it doesn’t boost me all the way up or anything like that. I just take it with a grain of salt. It’s good to be held in high regard, so I’m glad that I am grading out well in any form. I want to grade out well every day here when Vic (Fangio) gives me my grade sheet or when Ed (Donatell) gives me my grade sheet, I want to grade out well in all ends and just keep improving.”

Pro Football Focus' grades are often dismissed by players not graded well by the service. But on the positive end of things, Amos appreciates the grade he received but puts more stock into how he's evaluated by Fangio and Donatell. And the Bears' front office personnel who will decide if he's worthy of a second contract — Amos will be a free agent after the 2018 season — carry, perhaps, the most important view of his play. 

“I don’t evaluate any of those services,” defensive backs coach Ed Donatell said. “It’s always nice to be mentioned, but what I’m worried about is what he’s going to do with his skills on this day when I’m coaching him. Because that’s really all that matters. And we want him to play well so our team wins. I really can’t comment on those kind of things. Anytime somebody says something positive or brings something up, it’s nice, you get to take it in but keep perspective on where you are. We didn’t win enough games last year.” 

While Amos appreciates the “secret superstar” plaudits, he’s also not blind to where he needs to improve and what he needs to do better following practices and games. 

“I know with this scheme, I know when I’m right and wrong and I take the corrections by Vic,” Amos said. “I’m always listening to what (coaches are) saying. Them online, I don’t — it’s not like I’m listening to the online, but they consider this or that. But I take pride in making my plays when they come, how can I make more plays. I know Vic, with me, he’s stern in my eyes and my progression and little stuff that everybody else may not see but he’s big on me paying attention to those details and stuff like that. Just staying after that, making my plays and working to make more plays.”

Every single one of Amos’ 2,638 NFL snaps have come with Fangio as his defensive coordinator. But 2018 will be the first year Amos has stability among his teammates — he’ll have the same guy starting next to him at safety (Eddie Jackson) as well as the same cornerbacks (Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller). In front of him, Danny Trevathan is locked into a starting role and Nick Kwiatkoski looks likely to hold off Roquan Smith for at least a few weeks to begin the season. While Smith and Khalil Mack were major additions, there’s still a high degree of continuity here. 

And that continuity is why Amos is confident he can put together an even better season in 2018. 

“Every year I’ve had a new person that I was with, with linebackers and safeties and corners, for that matter,” Amos said. “So this is Year 2, per se, with us being together again. It’s just growing.” 

Bears starting secondary returns intact for ’18 – but is that a good thing?

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Bears starting secondary returns intact for ’18 – but is that a good thing?

The coach of a woeful college basketball team was asked in a postseason media session if the fact that he had all five of his starters returning was cause for optimism. “The kids tried hard,” the coach pointed out, “but we won two games last year. So having everybody back isn’t necessarily a good thing.”

The Bears approach the 2018 season and training camp returning their entire starting secondary – cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller on new, multi-year contracts, safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson now being touted as one of the NFL’s top safety tandems.

And continuity is unquestionably a prized element, particularly with offensive lines and defensive backfields. Having the four principle starters back should be a good thing.

The problem is, the Bears tied for 29th in the NFL with eight interceptions, matching a franchise-low for the third straight season. The starting DBs four accounted for just five total interceptions, suggesting that for all the supposed continuity, the whole was somewhat less the some of the parts where the critical turnover ratio is concerned.

The last time the Bears intercepted more passes (19) than their opponents (13) was 2013 – the last time the Bears saw .500.

The importance of one statistic can be overstated, but turnovers, particularly interceptions, are the one measurable with the greatest correlation to winning. The top 11 and 13 of the 14 teams with positive turnover ratios all posted winning records in 2017 (the Bears were 15th, with a zero net differential). And while fumble recoveries obviously also count as takeaways, interceptions are key: The top 10 teams in interceptions all posted positive records and all 14 of the turnover-ratio leaders intercepted more balls than they recovered.

Of the takeaways by those top 14 in turnover ratio, 65.8 percent of their takeaways came on interceptions. The Bears and the bottom half of the NFL turnover gatherers picked up only 55.7 percent of their takeaways on interceptions.

“Well, we hope we’re going to improve there,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “That takes 11 guys doing it, but we’ll see. That’s obviously going to be an emphasis for us.”

Creating a different mindset

Individual Bears defensive backs had flash moments: Jackson became the first rookie in NFL history with multiple 75-yard defensive touchdowns in a season; Amos returned an interception 90 yards for a score; Fuller was one of only two NFL players with at least 65 tackles and 20 passes defensed.

The Bears self-scouted enough to understand those for what they were – exceptions, bordering the fluke-ish, given the overall. The result was that even during minicamps and OTA’s, there was an edge to the play of the secondary. Mitch Trubisky and his quiver of weapons will have to earn things, beginning against their own teammates.

“We’ve been getting the receivers and the running backs a little mad, but they know that we’re just trying to get better at [takeaways],” Amukamara said. “And just catching the ones that the quarterback throws to you. But if we keep making the most of our opportunities we know that those numbers will go up.”

The numbers could scarcely go anywhere but up.

Amos, who was languishing on the bench and a possible roster bubble before Quintin Demps suffered a forearm fracture in week three, went 2,638 career snaps before collecting his lone career interception last season on a ball deflected to him seven yards away.

Amukamara was signed to a new three-year contract with $18 million of its $27 million guaranteed – this despite a dubious streak that has reached 2,340 snaps and more than two full seasons since his last interception.

The goal is to change that by “just getting to the ball, everybody,” Amos said. “Everybody is making efforts at the ball during camp. It’s just something that we just are emphasizing every day trying to create more takeaways.”

Pro Football Focus rated the Bears’ secondary No. 30 going into the 2017 season, factoring in veteran safety Quintin Demps signed coming off his best NFL season and Fuller coming off a season missed with a knee injury.

That is not a given. Pass defense begins with a pass rush, but roster losses have cost the Bears more than one-third (14.5) of their 2017 sack total (42).

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

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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.