After a horrendous 2013 campaign in which the Chicago Bears‘ defense finished 30th in the NFL in total yards against, the team overhauled much of their defensive unit, save for a few key players. Among those that were spared is fourth year safety Chris Conte. While he received much of the ire of Bears fans in 2013, in part from his untimely mistakes, Conte still remains the best option at safety for the Bears as they gear up to take on the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.
During the offseason, the Bears brought in plenty of players to compete for the job at safety while Conte rehabbed from offseason shoulder surgery for an injury that reportedly nagged him all season. Among those brought in by the Bears during free agency were Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, Adrian Wilson and Danny McCray. The Bears also drafted Brock Vereen in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft in an effort to bolster the position. With Conte sitting out for much of the offseason activities, none of these new recruits showed the Bears enough for one of them to unseat Conte from his starting position.
Even though Conte suffered a concussion during the third quarter of the Bears’ preseason Week 3 loss to the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks, his play during his time on the field was pretty good. While no one is expecting Conte to make the Pro Bowl in 2014, he is clearly the team’s best option at the position, with more than 45 NFL starts under his belt over the past three seasons.
With a re-tooled defensive line in front of them, and with younger, healthier cornerbacks alongside of them, the safety play for the Bears should be markedly better in 2014. Last season, they were asked to do too much in the running game to be effective at stopping the passing game as well. The Bears gave up an average of 5.3 yards per rush last season, which means the opposing running backs were already into the second level of the defense. It is hard to cover NFL receivers when you’re taking on running backs every other play.