It’s fair to call the Bears a playoff contender. Any team with a good quarterback and a top offense capable of scoring more than 27 points per game has at least a chance. But if the Bears want to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender, we must honestly assess the roster and identify potential roadblocks, and the Bears have a few.
The most alarming issue the Bears still face is the uncertainty at safety. The number one duty of a safety is to, well, provide a safety net as the last line of defense. The Bears cannot have what happened to Chris Conte in last year’s regular season finale — when he let Packers receiver Randall Cobb slip behind him for the game-winning touchdown — happen anymore this year.
Conte suffered a concussion this preseason and his status is once again murky. New addition Ryan Mundy has looked like the most surefire, steady option and will likely open the season as the team’s starting strong safety. I feel comfortable with him back there, even if he’s not the most dynamic playmaker there is.
Then there is special teamer Danny McCray, who has impressed coaches with his defensive abilities in training camp. Former Packer M.D. Jennings has had a quiet preseason and received almost the same criticism from Packers fans that Conte receives from Bears fans. Rookie Brock Vereen received a lot of acclaim in offseason practices, but hasn’t yet made a name for himself in the preseason. And lastly, there’s rookie Marcus Trice, whom I don’t expect to make the roster at all.
In an ideal scenario, Mundy and Vereen would operate at safety with Mundy’s veteran leadership and Vereen’s playmaking ability, which he displayed in college, flourishing at this level. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee Vereen will claim that spot, leaving more uncertainty at the position.
Conte, assuming he doesn’t get cut, will be back at some point and will have as fair a shot as any to land a starting gig.
Bottom line is, I’m less than comfortable with almost any combination the Bears throw out there in the defensive backfield. Increased pressure from the defensive line will be imperative this season.