Ryan Mundy vs Danny McCray vs Adrian Wilson vs M.D. Jennings vs Brock Vereen
The Bears had the (dis)honor of sporting the worst starting safeties in the NFL last season with Chris Conte and Major Wright.
Conte is currently on the PUP list with an injured shoulder as training camp kicked off and Wright was thankfully allowed to leave for Tampa Bay to try and save his career. So the Bears signed via free agency Mundy, McCray, Wilson and Jennings this off season and traded up in the draft to select Vereen, giving them as many options as possible.
Bears coach Marc Trestman stated that he plans on starting the two best safeties, regardless of if they fit the traditional free safety/strong safety mold. So with that in mind, we break down all five options.
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A five-year veteran, (four with the Steelers and the most recent one with the Giants) who has started 16 games, nine of which were last year. He has 141 tackles, one sack and two interceptions in his career.
Mundy spent Monday's practice at the free safety position while the Bears tried teaming him with Adrian Wilson, who played strong safety. Mundy seems to fit better at the strong spot, but regardless of the position, Trestman stated that Mundy has been very impressive so far through camp, which is more than he said about the rest of the unit.
Mundy did suffer a hip injury last season with the Giants but missed only a couple games and the injury does not seem to be lingering.
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McCray is entering his fifth season in the NFL, although he spent a majority of his career as a special teamer for the Dallas Cowboys. McCray had one season where he started 10 games for the Cowboys (2012) and he performed fairly well, recording 71 tackles and an interception.
That said, McCray was unable to make it on to the field in 2013, playing only eight snaps on the defensive side of the ball. Considering that the Cowboys ranked 26th in points allowed and 32nd (that's right, dead last) in total yards allowed, it is discouraging that Dallas didn't at least think he was good enough to deserve a second look in the defensive backfield.
McCray has seen some practice with the first team defense and was listed as the second string strong safety on the Bears first unofficial depth chart, which means very little overall, but McCray has to be encouraged.
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A five-time Pro Bowler with the Arizona Cardinals, Wilson is the most experienced and distinguished of the safety options the Bears have but the other side of the coin is his 34 years of age, the oldest in this group.
Wilson missed the entire 2013 season with both hamstring and ACL injuries. Prior to that, he had never started less than nine games in a singles season since he was drafted in 2001. His career numbers are impressive but it's his health that will determine his future with the team.
Will he regain his step? Will his injuries have him second guessing himself on the field? And mainly, can he beat out three of the other four players vying for one of the starting roles? I say this only because if Wilson is not a starter, the Bears may be hard pressed to keep him since the backup safeties will be vital to the special teams unit.
And given Wilson's history and recent injuries, special teams is probably not high on BOTH his list of desired jobs or the Bears' idea of a solid gunner.
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Jennings came over from the rival Green Bay Packers this off season after the Packers declined to resign him. Jennings started all 16 games in 2013 and 10 games in 2012 when Charles Woodson went down with a broken collarbone.
In his 26 starts, Jennings amassed 95 total tackles but with just one interception and three pass break ups (To be fair, Jennings did return that interception for a touchdown). The Packers defense ranked 24th in the NFL last season and specifically their pass defense, in terms of points allowed, ranked 27th overall.
Jennings is young but brings a surprising amount of experience for a fourth year player. That said, he was described by RotoWorld.com as "struggling mightily in coverage" last season and the fact the Packers did not even pursue Jennings as a possible minimum salary signing is not comforting..
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Vereen was drafted by the Bears in the fourth round of this years' NFL Draft. Coming out of the University of Minnesota, Chicago actually traded up in an effort to solidify the free agent position. Brock was named first team All-Big Ten by the coaches and displayed a work ethic and overall leadership the Bears lacked from their safeties in 2013.
He also comes from a football family as his father, Henry Vereen, played for UNLV and the Canadian Football League and his brother, Shane Vereen, is a running back for the New England Patriots
The scouting report from NFL.com draft profile highlights his athleticism, intellect and overall strength. But they do also point out that he lacks the ideal overall size to cover tight ends, needs to improve his tackling technique and recorded four interceptions only in his entire college career.
Ryan Mundy seems to be firmly entrenched as one of the starting safeties and no one really seems to be challenging him. His experience and offensive recognition will be a drastic improvement over his predecessor (Wright). And despite Vereen's promise and upside and Jennings' experience, look for the Bears to give Adrian Wilson his chance to start in week one, bringing a toughness and attitude to a defense that had lacked both last year.