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Position-by-Position at the Bye: Linebackers & Secondary

| October 30th, 2014

NFL: Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons

The following is part of a series of position-by-position breakdowns at the halftime point of the 2014 season.

Shea McClellin had a breakout game and broke his hand in practice the following week.

Jon Bostic had a breakout game and his back decided it had enough.

Darryl Sharpton had a breakout game and has been relegated to situational defense since for some reason.

Lance Briggs can’t stay on the field. D.J. Williams is a useful if unspectacular player in the middle. Khaseem Greene struggles as the Bears can’t find a position for him and the sample size is far too small to evaluate Christian Jones.

The unit as a whole deserves credit for helping to improve last year’s porous run defense and some blame for their struggles in coverage. But when a team has found themselves starting their fourth, fifth and sixth linebackers in a game how fair an evaluation can one actually provide?

Grade: Incomplete

Note: The Bears won’t do this but they should go full youth movement at the position over the second half of the season. Sit D.J. Williams. Sit Lance Briggs. Find out what you have in a combination of Sharpton, Bostic, Jones. Move McClellin around and see where, if anywhere, he can be most productive. Bears have eight games to learn what they have at linebacker for the next several years. To misuse that time would be a terrible mistake.

Keep reading to learn how bad the secondary has been!

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Kyle Fuller was a special draft pick. I really believe that. As Scott Wright of NFL Draft Countdown told me on this week’s podcast (posting soon) rookie corners are exceptionally fun to watch because they are going to receive opportunities to make plays. Fuller makes plays. He hasn’t been perfect, no rookie corner ever will be, but his ability keep elite receivers in front of him and take the football away are instinctual abilities that can’t be taught. Fuller is going to be a defensive anchor for this organization for years to come.

Then there’s the rest of them…

…and they are awful.

Tim Jennings has not been bad in 2014 but he’s yet to make a significant play. He’s just sorta been over there covering guys. But the Bears have needed more than that from a corner they’re paying nearly $6 million to anchor the secondary. When Fuller has not been on the field, opposing quarterbacks have just left Jennings alone and exploited the band of misfits the Bears are marching onto the field.

Those corners…nope. Hurst, Louis-Jean, Vereen, Frey and on and on and on. The Bears knew their depth would be an issue if they lost a starting corner and the injury to Peanut Tillman crippled the position. No, Tillman was not off to a great start but his presence is still significant and he has a history of shaking the ball loose when the Bears need it most. If Tillman were healthy it would be Jennings lining up in the slot on elite tight ends and slot receivers. If you don’t think that would have made a significant difference you’re lost.

The Bears started the season without a good safety on the roster. They continue to not have a good safety on the roster. None of the poor safety play has surprised me because I expected this group to be the worst in the NFL. Nothing over the final eight games will alter the premise that the Bears need to spend the 2015 offseason improving the talent level of this group.

Grade: D

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