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Position Battles: CB & FS

The final segment of a look into the most watched position battles during Bears training camp ends with the Bears secondary which is in a bit of an uproar. The starting CB tandem in Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher have been suspect to injuries and poor play at times, while the free safety position lost a captain and play maker in Mike Brown. Reinforcing this position is a must being that Lovie Smith puts heavy emphasis on turnovers. Here's a look at the personnel battling in camp:

Cornerback – Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher are the starters. However, Vasher is coming off a bad year with poor performance and injury thus making the next Cb on the depth chart very important for a defense that stresses on takeaways. When Vasher went down, Corey Graham went up. Graham filled in for Vasher and showed a physical presence at the CB position (91 tackles last year). However, Bears coaches are testing him at free safety. That leaves a stiff competition between Trumaine McBride, Zachary Bowman, and fourth round pick D.J. Moore. McBride showed adequate coverage skills with a knack for deflecting the pass, but nothing translates into interceptions (1 INT to 7 PD in spot duty for career). And at 5'9”, McBride has height for the nickelback job but not for covering a flanking WE. Bowman is making a huge push for the third spot with great off-season workouts and an early start in training camp. With Tillman's injury, Bowman has taking first-string reps and is making them count. And at 6'1”, 193 pounds, Bowman has excellent size for the position. Moore on the otherhad, has size against him (5'9”, 184 pounds). Yet his ball skills cannot be ignored. Moore is so talented he was orignally thought to be a first-round CB, but after poor 40 times at the combine and his pro day, he slipped. Moore will be a force at nickelback, but might struggle on the outside.

Safety – The departure of Mike Brown has made this position the most watched position on defense. The free safety job is up for grabs between a slew of players. Danieal Manning, Corey Graham, Craig Steltz, and Josh Bullocks are all making a case to fill in for the talented but injury proned Mike Brown (now will be wearing a Chiefs uniform). Manning has lead the way with the competition by earning reps with the first-string defense. Manning possesses decent size (5'11”, 202 pounds) for the safety position and has great speed. However, his tackling is a little bit underwhelming, he takes poor angles when pursuing ball carriers, and he does have lapses with coverage recognition. Yet, Bears coaches and fans are probably salivating about the mental image of Manning returning an interception.

Graham has been a CB for the Bears, but his size (6'0", 198 pounds) and physical style of play has put him in the running for a desperate free safety position. Graham will welcome the pounding that comes with being a safety and he's usually in position to deflect the pass, however he never makes them into interceptions, which is stressed severely in a Lovie Smith defense. Steltz impressed coaches in his rookie year with his ball skills in limited duty to go along with his size (6'1", 210 pounds). However, Steltz seems to fit the mold of a strong safety rather than a free safety. Bullocks was signed in the off-season after being the starting free safety for a very bad Saints defense. Bullocks has the ideal size for the position (6'0", 207 pounds) and is a very consistent tackler. However, his ball skills remain to be suspect. In five years in the league, he only has six interceptions, and those numbers don't fly for a defense that puts heavy emphasis on turnovers. Then again, he was on a really bad defense.

- Joshua D. Aldis (08/08/09)

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