Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, May 6: The wait to possibly try Graham at safety

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Let's get right to it.

Q: I am glad to learn that the Bears are considering Corey Graham to be the free safety this coming season because I have long felt Charles Tillman or Graham would be the best option on the roster. Why has it taken the team so long to reach this possible conclusion? Sometimes these things seem so obvious.

Phil S., Concord, N.H.

A: This isn't a revelation the coaching staff just arrived at, the possibility that Graham could fill a role at free safety. Steve Wilks, the defensive backs coach, said during training camp summer that the idea of trying Graham at safety and nickel back had been kicked around in meetings. Graham was actually introduced to safety during December 2007 when injuries were once again making a mess of the safety position. Well, injuries and the ill-conceived effort to revive Adam Archuleta's career. The Bears were short on bodies at the position at the end of the season. But how was the team going to get Graham up and running at safety last season? Remember, Tillman missed the bulk of training camp to be with his family as his daughter went through serious health issues. The Bears had to operate with what they had and that meant using Graham at left cornerback. He showed real strides from his rookie season. It was Trumaine McBride, who was drafted two rounds after Graham in 2007, who started as a rookie that season. But Graham moved ahead of him on the depth chart in training camp and made the kind of strides necessary for him to replace Nathan Vasher when injuries struck early in the season. We've given an awful lot of attention to the safety position--and for good reason--but issues at cornerback can be far more troubling. That's why the move of Graham to free safety will not be a possibility unless the team feels comfortable in Vasher or rookie D.J. Moore manning the job at right cornerback. There is going to be plenty of time to sort this out. OTA's begin two weeks from today on May 20, and this could easily carry into training camp and preseason but the hope would be the coaching staff would have an idea what the starting lineup will look like by then. It just seemed awkward going into the third preseason last summer when Brandon McGowan was benched and they started shifting parts around in the secondary.

Q: You wrote this week that Mike Brown is hoping to continue his career elsewhere and then Brandon McGowan signed with New England. What about Rex Grossman? I know he's been a popular punching bag and punchline, but are you surprised he has not found a team to this point?

Cole T., Parts Unknown

A: I think to a degree a lot of people are surprised that Grossman remains a free agent without a job, but it's proof positive that the agent wasn't the problem. Grossman made the move to Drew Rosenhaus shortly before the draft and Rosenhaus said he was confident Grossman would have a new team soon. That didn't materialize even with Grossman being shopped for the veteran minimum and now it's getting to the point that the former first-round pick of the Bears may have to wait for an injury in training camp to get a call. He has been working out in Tampa, Fla., with ex-NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg but those that thought Grossman would be a reasonably sought after veteran in free agency focused too much on his run to the Super Bowl in 2006 and not enough on what transpired afterward. We talked spoke with one coach in the league who said in the past he liked Grossman. Asked if he was surprised Grossman remained out of work, he said he was not. The coach said Grossman's mechanics in the last two seasons had fallen apart and he felt the quarterback was playing scared. When you consider some of the guys who found work quickly--J.T. O'Sullivan, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dan Orlovsky--it makes you realize how far Grossman has fallen. Heck, it shows you how wildly different the Bears' evaluation of Grossman was at this point a year ago as compared to the rest of the league. We thought Grossman would have been better served striking out in search of a fresh start a year ago. Maybe the Bears were his only option at that time.

Q: Jerry Angelo said that he sees six of the nine draft picks making the 53-man roster. The Bears are notoriously slow to cut loose their draft picks and treat them like favored children. But I look at the roster and don't see a lot of holes to be filled. What's a reasonable expectation here?

Shaun, Chicago

A: For starters, it's impossible to tell how ready the nine draft picks will be based on the rookie minicamp this past weekend. As far as we can tell, there are not any players with medical issues hanging over them and that will no doubt help. Just based on Angelo's recent track record, I don't see why six picks won't make this team. The Bears wound up with nine of their 12 selections from 2008 on the roster by season's end although cornerback Zack Bowman was on injured reserve. In 2007, the only player that was cast off before the season started was seventh-round pick Aaron Brant. Five of seven stuck it out through 2006. The Bears have been consistent. Their draft picks stick around. Don't be surprised if the number isn't seven.

Q: I'm confused why the Bears did not sign some of the tryout players who were at rookie minicamp. Surely out of two dozen players they should have seen someone that showed a glimpse, right?

Ed T., Urbana, Ill.

A: There might be some gems out there on the street right now, but with 256 players drafted and then another 160 (low ball guesstimate giving each team five) signed as undrafted free agents, we're well into the 400's. Were there that many can't-miss players in college football last fall that were draft eligible? Consider the numbers we're looking at here. The Bears are very close to the maximum for training camp. A little roster movement in the next two weeks would not surprise me. The team cut loose running back Tyrell Fenroy on Tuesday. The college players cannot return until after May 16 at the earliest, so if they're signed right now or not doesn't really matter. You can't put them to work immediately. What we're talking about here are camp bodies.

Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. We're going to give our mail delivery specialist a few days off. We'll get back to Four Down Territory on Monday. Send in your questions before then.

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I was so sure Aaron Brant would be a super duper tackle sense the bears drafted him. Twenty probowls atleast.

I still have a Brant poster on my living room wall (put it up right over the family foto hehe) and it so gosh darn hard to take down!

Oh diddly-niddly!

It should be interesting to see where everyone ends up at secondary wise, especially Corey Graham. Myself, I thought Corey Graham was coming on nicely at corner, especially for only a second year player who was a former 5th rounder out of a small school like New Hampshire. Thats a big jump in competition to go from New Hampshire to the Chicago Bears.

Its gonna come down to two players that decide where Graham will ultimately end up at. Josh Bullocks and rookie D.J. Moore. If Bullocks comes on at free safety during camp and Moore can show something at corner, the Bears might make the move, if not, Graham will remain at corner.

As of right now, I think the starting lineup will look like this, left cornerback Charles Tillman, right cornerback Corey Graham, free safety Josh Bullocks, and strong safety Kevin Payne. Maybe Im wrong, maybe Im right? We'll see late summer, but I think this is how its gonna end up. I also like the fact both Graham and Tillman are 6-1, especially when the Bears face teams with the bigger wide outs GO BEARS!!

I thought Zack Bowman could get a look at FS, he showed some decent speed before getting hurt.

Grossman's only option may be to resign with The Bears. Working with DeBerg is a good sign, based on his track record with improving other QBs. But that 'gun-shyness' Grossman developed may be hard to overcome.

Don't let Grossman anywhere near Cutler. Really, I wish the guy all the best; but he never seemed very passionate about his job and he certainly couldn't look off a defender. Whatever habits he has, they could be contagious. Imagine this nightmare, Cutler gets hurts, and Rex Grossman runs on the field. I'd be loading the piston and pointing it to my head...Caleb Hanie runs on, I think, this is an investment. Grossman runs on, I think, this is an interception.

P.S. I wish Kyle Orton all the best, he was a class act while here; but I'm still excited about the Cutler deal. And I do think it was a win win for both Teams. Especially, when you condsider the Bears success with number 1's. We just traded Michael Haynes and Rex Grossman for Jay Cutler. It's crazy.....Ok Cedric Benson and (insert your bust here) etc etc etc etc

After further review..............Orton still SUCKS!!!!! Thank God he's gone!!!!!

Maybe it's because I haven't lived in Chicago for a long time and have a slightly different perspective, but I was screaming for the Bears to get Jeff Garcia when he wanted to go there a few years ago, and to start Brian Griese in 2007 and 2008, because he was clearly better than Grossman. The Bears were loyal to Grossman to a fault. I fully agree with the unnamed coach's assessment, though I never saw much in Grossman except someone who could become a good passer (as opposed to a good quarterback).

I find it bewildering that the Bears still don't know Danieal Manning's role, and also that no one in the Chicago media is talking about him. Is he still the nickel corner? Or is he merely a kick returner now? That seems like a total waste of his talent and a high 2nd-round pick. The Bears seem to have a lot of corners and no free safety, so why not put Manning back at FS once and for all? He is by far the fastest and most physically gifted option they have. As for CB, Tillman, Vasher, Graham, and Moore are more depth than most teams have, so Manning isn't needed there at all.

For all those fans that thought letting go of grossman was a mistake.

What are your thoughts now?
The guy can't even get a job as a water boy.
The teams in the league know exactly how to beat him. That is why there are no takers.

""As of right now, I think the starting lineup will look like this, left cornerback Charles Tillman, right cornerback Corey Graham, free safety Josh Bullocks, and strong safety Kevin Payne. Maybe Im wrong, maybe Im right? We'll see late summer, but I think this is how its gonna end up. I also like the fact both Graham and Tillman are 6-1, especially when the Bears face teams with the bigger wide outs GO BEARS!!""

That sounds about right. Bullocks has to prove it to win it, that's the good news. Lovie isn't giving him a starter job, he will make them all compete for the FS opening. Graham has the size, speed and athletic abilities to make a solid FS. What is a FS really ?? In my opinion, a FS is cover corner who can tackle well. Graham is a solid cover corner as proven by his stints in the starting lineup in place of Vasher and Tillman and he doesn't shy away from contact. Tillman would make the best transition to FS because he is the best tackling CB we have but his injury history rules him out.

If Bullock's finds himself and wins the job Graham would be a hybrid CB/FS. He would get situational time at both poitions. Tillman is a lock and it looks like Lovie wants Vasher and Moore to fight for the other CB spot. Manning will remain as the primary NB/KR because he doesn't have the capacity to play muttiple defensive positions well...

Lovie seems to be more interested in getting the best athletes on the field together in the secondary. It's not a bad thing, many experts and coaches alike feel that the FS position is changing much like the FB position has lost it neccessity with more teams running the spread and (2) TE sets.

Either way I think the FS spot will come down to Bullocks and Graham as you stated. It will be intersting to see who makes an impression in camp. The Bears are bringing alot of bodies to the OTA's and training camp:

Tillman, Hamilton, Bowman, Burgess, Vasher, Graham, McBride, Moore, Bullocks, Manning, Payne, Steltz, Earl and Afalava.

The Bears typicaly keep (10) DB's and sometimes (11) so two or three guy's will not make the squad. Looking at it as Lovie keeping (10) I would say that Burgess, Earl, Hamilton and Afalava could be on the bubble. Afalava looks like he will be a practice squad player this year unless he just wows the coaches in camp. Steltz seems to be safe because Angelo likes him. Bowman should be a solid backup CB. Graham is a lock as is Tillman, Moore, Payne and Manning but other then that I can't imagine Hamilton, Vasher, McBride or Bullocks to be roster locks right now.

It should be a very interesting pre-season. Alot of positions battles to sorted out on Offense and Defense.

Go Bears !!

I believe the starting secondary will be:

Left Corner - Charles Tillman
Right Corner - Nathan Vasher
Free Safety - Corey Graham
Strong Safety - Kevin Payne
Nickle Corner - Danieal Manning

do u think the Bears have any interest in Tinoisamoa,whom the Rams just booted out the door?Linebacker seems to be a position that has been neglected over the past couple years.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on May 6, 2009 1:10 PM.

Angelo says Simeon Rice not in the Bears' plans was the previous entry in this blog.

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