Chicago Sun-Times

Bears draft preview: Need No. 7 Strong safety

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Need No. 7--Strong safety

Players on roster

SS Kevin Payne (signed through 2010)
S Craig Steltz (2011)
S Glenn Earl (2009)

Need

Make no mistake about it, this is a big season for Payne. Entering the third year of his contract, he has the opportunity to play so well that the Bears will be motivated to talk extension with him at this time next year. If he doesn't play well, the Bears could be exploring new options come 2010. Payne played well at strong safety last season, which is where he started the year before a change was made to benefit departed veteran Mike Brown. Payne had double-digit tackles, including a season-high 15 on Oct. 19 vs. Minnesota--in six of the first 10 games before the move. Payne was out of position at free safety and the idea that the positions are interchangeable is a stretch. There are some durability concerns with him. He missed most of his rookie season with a broken arm that required surgery. He had shoulder surgery after this past season.

Steltz is being promoted as an option at free safety but he doesn't have the range to play that position. He could fit in at strong safety and will likely be Payne's backup. Earl could also figure at free safety but he might be the backup at nickel when training camp opens. The belief is that Payne will regain control of the position and succeed. Free safety is a much more pressing need. But as we wrote about outside linebackers, this is a core position for special teams coordinator Dave Toub and the Bears will always be on the lookout in the later rounds of the draft for players who can contribute.

Who the Bears have been looking at

Most of the possibilities the team has looked at are late-round possibilities or potential undrafted free agents. Oregon State's Al Afalava and Penn State's Anthony Scirrotto came to Halas Hall for pre-draft visits. The club put Ohio's Mike Mitchell through a private workout. He could project as a free safety also. The Bears also put Troy's Sherrod Martin through a private workout and he definitely projects as a free safety. Some clubs are looking at Martin as a cornerback. The Bears are also believed to be interested in New Mexico's Glover Quin and Arizona State's Troy Nolan. They also project as free safeties.

Coming Monday: Defensive tackle.

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9 Comments

Strong safety is not a need at all heading into the draft, I actually think this position should be ranked lower as far as team needs, the Bears need a free safety. Chicago is currently loaded with strong safety types.

Kevin Payne was really starting to come on in only his second season when he was at strong safety. Like Brad pointed out, Payne was a tackling machine when he was at strong safety, he was actually leading the team in tackles before he was switched to free safety in early november. A lot of the skeptic's will try to say "Payne was leading in tackles because opposing teams would run at him," I say, " no $hit, but the fact he had so many tackles proves he could stop them almost every time they ran on him." Most opposing offenses will run at a safety before they will run at say a linebacker. Also, a lot of people don't notice, but like Danieal Manning, Kevin Payne has been switched back and fourth between positions [free safety/strong safety]. As a rookie, before his season ending injury, Payne was at free safety for his one lone start as a rookie vs the Lions when he went down with his season ending injury. If the Bears give Payne one full season at strong safety, he'll probably develop into one of the leagues better strong safeties. He doesn't have the range to play free safety, but with 4 ints that he had this season, his range should be good enough to play strong safety. Kevin Payne should be fine at strong safety along with Craig Steltz as his backup. Kevin Payne is known for his ability to knock the taste out of someone's mouth, and to me, you can't get enough of these type of defenders on your team.

Chicago needs to come out of this draft with another free safety. Im still big on Notre Dames David Bruton who the Bears could land in the mid-rounds. Bruton has nice size at 6-2 210lbs, runs a 4.5 40, and can cover a lot of ground in the deep half, with the ability to high-point the ball on the sideline for the interception. He'd be a nice pick, we'll see on saturday GO BEARS!!

I would agree with the safety assessment, I really feel that the Bears need to pick a free safety early in this draft, and if we don`t draft an outside linebacker, then you will pretty much be able to say, that the Bears will be in nickel on the defensive side of the ball for most of the year. The bulk of teams we play will exploit Urlacher and the mid field defense, so it is imperative that we get speed at free safety. I also would like to see more hitters on defense, it makes the offense play " on it`s toes," and gives the defense more chances for turnovers. I don`t know what everyone else thinks, but I would like to have Mike Brown back, just for his play in the "red zone", alone, he adds the " smarts", that some of these players just don`t have.

Don't be surprised to see a nice camp battle at the strong safety dpot between Payne and Earl. Glen Earl is a physical run stopper who plays well near the line of scrimmage, and Coach Hoke knows him well and didn't bring him in for nothing.

Who the hell is Glenn Earl?? Is he related to Robin??

So Kevin your saying if the Bears let Payne start at SS all season he will be on of the leagues best SS. Ok I will believe it if you can you justify your statment please.

By the way Kevin I would rather have a guy who could tackle than a guy who could hit. You said:

"Kevin Payne is known for his ability to knock the taste out of someone's mouth, and to me, you can't get enough of these type of defenders on your team"

Umm who around the league has said that? Thats the first I have heard of it. I have heard that about Chris Harris, but not Payne.

By the way these are the leagues best SS.
Bob Sanders
Trot Polamalu
Kerry Rhodes
Chris Hope
Laron Landry
Atari Bigby

Well I have not heard anyone mention Payne with any of these guys, but maybe you could post a link were it says Payne is one of the best young Safeties in the NFL. It's so strange that you would say he is so great cause just a month or so ago you wanted the Bears to draft William Moore who is a projected SS. How strange.

Kevin who among the projected Bears starters do you think is not going to be an All Pro this year? When you do your mock and you get to the Bears picks do actually write a name or do you just type in Future All Pro.

Im kidding man but it is so funny sometimes the way you glow about average or bad players if there in a Bears uniform.

By the way word is Simms has the upper hand in the QB competition in Denver. Now that Orton isn't a Bear Kevin how do you feel about him? Oh wait is it to soon? I know he has not been gone long, I think he misses you though, if that makes you feel better.

Don't forget Kevin you said he was the best QB in the NFL and had the strongest arm in the nfl. Do you hate Cutler? Do you think we traded for a lesser QB? If we got Troy Polamalu would you bench him in favor of Payne?

Moses Glenn Earl just so happens to be a DB that once played for the Texans. He last played football in 2006, he has been gone a couple years and now he is back and ready to rock out with his c### out. Him and Hoke are close, go team buddy. I kinda hope he does beat out Payne just because I want to see Kevin react to it.

Earl is gonna be fun, after he got hurt in that 2007 Pre Season game the Pass defense for Houston actually got better.

Creighton, I had to take a moment to collect myself after reading that response to KA! Poor Kevin. You can be such a jacka$$ lol!

I really don't see SS being a need at all this season. We have Payne, Steltz and Earl and they all seem to fit the SS mold. Personally, I think it was a shame that Payne got bumped around to FS during last season because he was really looking good at Strong. To me, FS and SS are not interchangeable and I think a lot of the Bears' issues with the pass defense last season were due to two strong safeties being on the field at the same time.

Payne could rack up tackles and make plays, my only issue was his desire to get the big hit instead of the sure tackle. But he's definitely a better safety than D. Manning ever was, and his football smarts will only get better. He's a good option at SS, and it would be nice to see him on the field with Zack Bowman or Rashad Johnson at FS come September.


I am with the rest of you I think we can live with Payne as our starting strong safety. But please, someone, just coach him up. I would love to see him understand when he needs to wrap up and make a tackle. Our starting free safety is Josh Bullocks. I have so little faith in him and the others on the team that I would like to see us draft a couple of free safeties maybe picking up the second in the 5th round. Its a loser move to draft a player and project that he is your starter. But draft a couple of them and put them in direct competition with those that we have, our odds double that we have a rookie free safety starting by the playoffs. At this point I would take that. Someone good enough to force Bullocks to the bench.

The author of this article left off Zach Bowman who was recently converted to safety, Josh Bullocks who we recently aquired from New Orleans, and D. Manning who will also be doing some work at safety, but will most likely stick with his job as the teams nickel back.

Richard: "The author of this article left off Zach Bowman who was recently converted to safety, Josh Bullocks who we recently aquired from New Orleans, and D. Manning who will also be doing some work at safety, but will most likely stick with his job as the teams nickel back."

The author of THAT blog comment doesn't know the difference between Strong Safety and Free Safety ... but don't let that stop ya from "correcting" the best beat reporter in Chicago.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 19, 2009 9:19 AM.

Bears draft preview: Need No. 8 Inside linebacker was the previous entry in this blog.

Bears bring Jayhawks LB Mike Rivera in for close look is the next entry in this blog.

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