Chicago Sun-Times

What to watch for Thursday--the secondary

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Typically, there's not much that you can call riveting viewing in a fourth preseason game. I've always said if you've got season tickets, cross your fingers that the third preseason game is at Soldier Field. At least you get to attend (or sell your seats) a game that has some semblance of a regular-season affair.

That being said, the preseason finale against Cleveland at the end of the summer in 2005 carried at least some interest. It marked the first start for rookie Kyle Orton after Chad Hutchinson had bombed out following Rex Grossman's broken ankle.

Worth watching when the Bears take the field Thursday night at Cleveland will be how the secondary is deployed. Don't expect the first-team units to be on the field long, but Danieal Manning made it known change is in the air when he was asked about the departure of Ricky Manning Jr., the former nickel back.

"Right now they are moving some stuff around,'' Danieal Manning said. ``They said they are going to try something different. Some stuff might change.''

Brandon McGowan is the only member of the secondary with any experience as a nickel cornerback. It's a hybrid linebacker/defensive back position and he's stout vs. the run. He figures to take over there with Danieal Manning getting nudged aside in his bid to replace Ricky Manning Jr., who happens to be a distant cousin. That would allow the Bears to get Kevin Payne on the field at strong safety.

More compelling will be whether or not the change at strong safety in the nickel defense carries over to the base defense and Payne replaces McGowan there. Don't rule it out. Coach Lovie Smith is high on Payne and he split time against San Francisco with the first team. How things shake out in the defensive backfield will be interesting.

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10 Comments

I read that Fred Miller wants to come back to the Bears. I hope that does not happen. I remember too many blocks he simply whiffed on last year. Even with as little as he wold cost regarding the salary cap, he's not worth it.

While I like the idea of Payne being on the field more, I do not think it should be at the expense of Danieal Manning. I think his speed in covering the slot is crucial, even if he does struggle some of the time in space. We know McGowan and Payne are limited in their range, and Mike Brown has looked rather pedestrian in his coverage as well. The only way I could see McGowan and Payne on the field is the run-heavy package where one of the corners comes out, and we go 3 safeties. Then I think you put McGowan on the outside and let Payne play back at SS.

This would be another case of the team trying too hard to outsmart someone. If we are struggling in coverage, why would you add another guy who struggles in coverage? If you really want Payne on the field, you have a decision to make. Do you want Mike Brown or Brandon McGowan on the bench? Putting a slower player like McGowan at nickel makes zero sense to me. Either he plays safety, or he doesn't play. That is the only thing that makes sense. Besides, Manning has all the skills to be a corner or a safety, but they need to pick one and let him develop.

Joe:

Maybe Mcgowan is a better cover guy than we give him credit to be?

Manning has the speed but sometimes he appears a little soft in the tackling department.

I would like manning to find a spot he can stick and develop. Maybe the planis now he will be contributing more to special teams as a four phase guy?

Who knows??

I personally would leave the first defense on the field until the actually tackled someone or made a play on the ball.
Also, your new reporter who played for the Redskins; his assessment of defense play in exhibition games may apply to losers like the Bears and 'skins but I guess nobody told Seattle they are suppose to dog it.

Llama,
I have not seen anything out of McGowan that says he is better in coverage than Manning. He takes a lot of wrong steps, and gets routinely beaten on double moves. Part of it is due to the liability of the Cover 2, in that no one is really covered, but at the same time, your slot cover corner needs to be able to stick with someone man to man. If Manning can't do it, I am pretty well convinced McGowan can't either. Maybe Bowman, Graham, or McBride are better options, but I would hate to see them add a run supporter in a coverage spot.

I do think Manning is a solid tackler, just not a banger like McGowan is. I wonder if they are still planning on him as the insurance for Brown again this year? Makes me wonder...

Mannings biggest mistakes are all mental, I wouldn't say his tackling as soft as his head. Brown controls a lot of the defense when he plays, he makes more calls than Urlacher, thats why when he goes down the defense really tends to fall apart. He is an on the field coach. But he has lost a step and even appears a little gun shy out there. Saftie is a problem spot for the Bears, good thing we have Peanut who should make the switch if he is a real team player and wants to help the team next year.

The key to the Bears secondary is better and more aggressive play from the front seven.

If it is indeed true that Urlacher and Harris are top 30 players, then they better prove it. Yes, Babich and Lovie play the softest D in North America -- given the alleged talent on the defense -- but if they turn more aggressive and snap at the QBs' heels a lot more often, the secondary will be fine.

Paul Manter, I agree 100%, as far as the Bears not signing Fred Miller. The Bears need to go with rookie Kirk Barton as this seasons back up right tackle, and place Barton on the 53 man roster. Chicago needs to get younger on the offensive line and move forward. I say place Barton on the roster, there is a chance he will see some action this season, with John Tait getting a little long in the tooth himself. Let him take his lumps, and with time, the Bears will have a good young tackle in Barton. I can't see Barton playing any worse than Miller has, especially with Miller being 35 years young.
Creighton, I would wait till the regular season to call Mike Brown gun shy, or say Brown has lost a step. A lot of veteran players, like Brown, don't usually go full throttle till the regular season. GO BEARS!!

Creighton,

I have to disagree with you on Tillman. He's probably the most underrated CB in the NFL ... the last preseason game excluded. Vasher and Tillman are a very capable tandem that ranks in the top 10 (possibly 5) in the NFL.

I'd rather not take away from a position of strength. Fixing the safety problem sure would be a lot easier if Angelo hadn't sent Chris Harris to Carolina for a sack of magic beans; I'll never understand that trade. In a Cover 2 system, I still don't understand how the weakest position on the defense is safety ... but that's the greatness of Jerry Angelo for you.

This year at safety we're hoping Brown can bounce back and stay healthy. McGowan can take the next step and stay healthy. Kevin Payne can take the next step and stay healthy ... OR Danieal Manning can take the next step which has eluded him thus far.

Not that they would consider this, but the Bucs for many years have moved Ronde Barber, their best CB, inside in nickel situations to cover the slot. Why wouldn't the Bears move Vasher inside, and put Graham, Bowman, or Danieal Manning on the outside. Vasher seems to be our quickest corner as far as changing direction, which is what you need in the slot, and he also has a solid knack for the ball, which will help him in cheating off the slot to the underneath routes. Manning has great speed for recovery, and is a lot more physical than Vasher on the outside.

Lovie seems to think Monte Kiffin's defense is the only way to approach a game, so why not mirror his strategy on 3rd down? Maybe that would solve all of our coverage problems (yeah, right...)

But before we condemn D Manning for his nickel play, has the defense at any point in the preseason looked like they could stop anyone? Urlacher, Briggs, Tommie, Alex, Anderson, Tillman, Vasher, Mike Brown, and McGowan have all looked pretty well terrible most of the time they have been on the field. Blaming one position for the entire unit's failings is just plain wrong.

This "bend but don't break" style is great in the red zone, but we end up spending too much time in the red zone because we stay on the field while they march right down on us. If we continue to give up 5-8 yards on first down (most of the time so far on running plays), there is no chance for a 3 and out. The defense will be on the field for 5,7,10 minute drives, and by the second half, we will get steamrolled. We need to make more plays on first down, so the Cover 2 actually does what it is supposed to do. Manning is not the problem. The run defense is the problem, as it was last year. We stop the run, teams can't pass on us because we can attack the QB, and subsequently, we win games. As it was in 1985, and 2006, and should be again.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on August 27, 2008 6:18 AM.

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