Chicago Sun-Times

Safety picture begins to clear; Hanie in position as No. 2 QB

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Kevin Payne and Craig Steltz spent Wednesday running with the first team at safety. That could be one of the more compelling positions to watch come training camp, but coach Lovie Smith said the voluntary offseason program has helped answer some questions. Steltz, no question, has been one of the bigger climbers this offseason. The belief is his instincts and smarts will help make up for a lack of range at free safety.

"It's clearer,'' Smith said, of the position. "There are lot of positions that will go down to training camp. We're excited about where we right now, but we have to get there and then we'll really know. The next part of the evaluation process is to see the guys in pads, then in the preseason games.

"I like our preseason schedule, the teams that we have to play to get ready. A team like Buffalo that can run and pass, a similar offense. The next week a physical team like the Giants coming in. The third game of course is normally the game that everyone looks at, and to go on the road playing of course in a prime-time game, all of that is getting us ready for of course the Packers.''

*** Corey Graham was not in the mix at safety. He's been playing nickel cornerback since Danieal Manning was "nicked'' last week. Graham has gotten work at nickel, safety and cornerback this offseason. Graham played nickel for two games last season.

"You're just trying to find a way to play no matter where it is--safety, corner or nickel,'' Graham said. "It doesn't really matter to me. I just want to get out on the field and try to help out.''

*** Staying in the secondary, Charles Tillman was out as he continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery. Zack Bowman got work at left corner with the starters, and Smith singled him out for his work the past few months. Proving he can stay healthy moving forward will be the key.

The player who stood out Wednesday was Trumaine McBride, who was with the second team at right corner. McBride picked off a pass that went off the hands of Devin Hester and then broke up passes to Michael Gaines and Adrian Peterson on the next two snaps. Three snaps and three plays on the ball.

*** Caleb Hanie has clearly taken control of whatever competition there is to be the backup quarterback. He's edged ahead of Brett Basanez. Hanie throws a good deep ball and that was evident on his pass to Juaquin Iglesias on the final play of the workout.

*** Frank Omiyale worked with the first team at left guard. It will not be a surprise if he opens there when training camp arrives.

*** It hasn't taken long for Pisa Tinoisamoa to get work with the first team at strong-side linebacker.

*** Brandon Rideau continued to get some action with the first team. The more Jay Cutler talks about the wide receiver, the better positioned you think Rideau will be when camp opens.

*** Second-year defensive tackle Marcus Harrison looks ready to play nose tackle. He's bulked up considerably this offseason, and has been sidelined some with a nagging knee issue. Harrison had knee surgery before his final season at Arkansas. It will be interesting to see how he looks when camp opens.

*** Rookie safety Al Afalava stood with position coach Gill Byrd deep behind the action during some drills. Afalava just arrived for the offseason program this week because of the rule that prevents players who have not graduated from attending until graduation has been held at their school. He attended Oregon State, which is on the quarters system.

Check back Thursday for some more notes and nuggets.

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It's too bad Graham isn't getting to work out at saftey. I think he'd make a great free saftey if given time to really learn the position. He's a sure tackler and has the range to play.

On another note I'm glad to see that Rideau is getting a chance to play with the first team. I think he has earned his right for a roster spot and will be a contributer if given the chance.

Finally someone starts to appreciate Steltz, he's a really fine safety and I hope he gets a chance to start and show he can play.
I wrote it here weeks ago: Payne & Steltz are the ones to start.
Get rid of Bullocks and let Graham return to CB, if Vasher is not back the way we are used to than waive him too, cause DJ Moore is the guy to watch at CB.

If Rideau shines this season and considering how other ex-Bears receivers have done lately, I think we have to put to bed the argument that past quarterbacks stunk because of a lack of players to throw to.

unlike alot of fans - I liked what I saw in Steltz, time will tell to be sure, but I felt he only needed some experience. He came out with alot of talent/stats for people to think he can't play.

we do have some WR playing for other teams that we said couldn't play, they are no where nears No. 1 WR but they do contribute.
That is why I like the trade/free agent Jerry as opposed to the draft Jerry then develope Lovie method.
Maybe Rideau makes it, but based on past experience - he won't play cause Davis etc.. will get the reps as usual.

The news on the safety front is somewhat surprising. From the little we saw of him last year, it just doesn't seem like Steltz has the speed, range or athleticism to be a starting NFL free safety.

You normally hear about someone's instincts and football smarts making up for a lack of physical talent at the end of a player's career when the physical attributes start to diminish. This is not what you normally hear about someone just starting his career.

I think he's probably a good, solid football player who can have a long career as a special teams contributor and quality depth in the secondary, but I don't think I'm crazy about going into the season with Craig Stetlz as the starting free safety. I hope he proves me wrong! Go Bears!

Come on people wake up. Steltz is nothing more than a stop gap at safety. he is not a free safety, all i remember is watching a really slow player that got trucked at the goalline a few times. he is not the answer. its also really sad to see the bears make the same mistake with Graham that they did with Manning. a player cant gain experience and get better when everyday he is learning a new position. Just stop saying Steltz is good because the bears coaches dont think he is either or they wouldn't be moving corners over to try and play saftey and drafting more safteies if he was the answer. your asking for trouble if you play 2 strong safties in your secondary with both having range issues

I too feel that Steltz would be fine given some experience, but is Corey Graham still the #2 FS? If hes playing the nickel behind Manning, whos backing up Steltz?? Brad, any word on that?? I would not be in such a hurry to sign a vet WR.. Rideau is a gem in the making. Total mystery why he got no playing time last year. And Hester will explode now that we someone that can actually "get" the ball to him. If we can stay somewhat healthy especially on "D", 11-5 is very reachable. Last note.. Cant wait for knuckle head Favre to suit up in the purple and white. Vikes would be better with Rosenfels. Favre will get greedy and cost them games. Favre is beyond selfish.. hes a team wrecker now, but that is what the Vikes do.. go get em Vikes.. we cant wait.. neither can the Packers.. lololol

We will see when the pads go on and people actually have to play the positions. This speculation on walk throughs and non-contacts is only offseason fodder. Don't believe the hype.

I'm not really worried about Graham's time at NB stunting his football growth, like has happened with D. Manning. For one, they are two different people entirely. Just because Manning seemed to be in over his head because of the switches, I don't think its fair to assume Graham will end up the same way. Also, more and more teams are now going to a 3 safety look instead of 3 corners in the Nickel, so this shouldnt be a completely shocking course of action. And finally, I'd argue that learning the other secondary positions could make him exactly the type of defensive QB that we are missing now that the Mike Brown era has ended. Who knows, maybe this kid is smart enough and talented enough to actually replace #30.

Bear Down!

I can't wait for training camp to see how the lines (o & d) shape up.

I hope Harrison's weight doesn't slow down his concerns me a bit. We'll see in Bourbonnais.

I would love to see Rideau move to the 1st team. he would give us the big target opposite Hester. It also sounds like Knox has looked real good, but as a rookie wr you can't count on him. I am a little worried about the whole Steltz thing. He seems like the same kind of player as Payne. Physical but not rangy. I would rather see Graham start and give us better coverage. he is also pretty physical based on last year. i think we are loaded at corner but still weak at safety. If its true that Vasher is back playing well, than our best DBs might be Tillman, Vasher, the rookiee Moore and Graham. All corners.

Safety is not a position you'd like to see 2 young guys with minimal experience starting.

The Bears brought in Glenn Earl and Josh Bullocks, 2 guys entering their 5th year and probably brought in for a purpose, but you don't even read about them in these columns, which is worrying.

Kevin Payne looked good early on last year with 3 interceptions in the first 7 games and some big hits, but didn't seem to have the same presence in the latter half of the season. Craig Steltz missing that one tackle near the end zone and allowing the opposing RB to score at the end of last season with Mike Brown out stuck in my memory (along with that goal line interception).

I think Payne and Steltz can make plays, but their inexperience will show from time to time.

I'm reserving judgment on Steltz. A guy playing in the secondary usually is not going to come on until his second season- especially if he's playing FS. If the guy has the smarts to line guys up and the instincts to be at the right place at the right time, I'll live with that over an exceptional athlete who is no help to anyone else in the secondary and who consistently finds himself out of position. We will see.

I thought Gill Byrd was released by Lovie Smith in January. Is

I know "toasted" peanut can not make every play,especialy when theres no pass rush, but I thought he played too far off the recievers and got burnt too often for a number one corner last season. If bowman is fully healthy he has the size to match up with the taller recievers and seems to make plays. I have to see Moore stop the tall recievers too believe it but he could match up with small quick guys.

Hey Troy,

I just woke up. Thanks. I think you are mistaken.
From your frame of thinking, one would think by the age of 20, you are done with developing and improving. Steltz is new to the team.
Give him a chance to develop before you throw him into the can.

Lovie's play not to lose, prevent nothing, cover-who play off the receiver and let him catch it before you try to tackle approach will keep Da Bears D down as it has in recent years no matter whom the safeties and CBs are, can't make things happen giving receivers a comfortable cushion.

ChicagoKirk hit the nail on the head!

Asking defenders to chase a receiver around AFTER they've caught the ball is downright demoralizing. That's what the coaches must be teaching these guys because that's what they're doing on most plays.

The coaches need to change their philosophy!!!!

Way to go tru!!!!!!!!!

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on June 17, 2009 9:48 PM.

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