The Bears are making a move at the position they've changed more than any other under Lovie Smith.
No, Jay Cutler isn't headed to the bench for Caleb Hanie.
The Bears are going to do a safety dance. Again. Danieal Manning is headed to the bench this week against St. Louis and Kevin Payne will start in his place. Manning will probably return to his role as the nickel back, meaning Corey Graham will probably be the odd man out. Manning has had some issues in coverage recently. He was out of position on DeSean Jackson's long touchdown catch two weeks ago. He remains the most athletic member of the secondary, but it hasn't translated into lots of plays.
The move could be a creation of the Bears' desire to shut down the Rams' Steven Jackson, who enters second in the league in rushing. Jackson hasn't practiced for the last two days because of a back issue, but he's expected to play. His production has been terrific, especially when you consider the issues St. Louis (1-10) faces on offense. The Rams have trailed all season--they rarely play with the lead--and yet their passing offense ranks 22nd. Whether it's Marc Bulger or Kyle Boller, who will start this week, they are struggling to move the ball through the air. The speedy Donnie Avery is the only wide receiver who was on the roster at the start of the season, amazing turnover when you consider it.
So opposing defenses have loaded up against Jackson and he's still been a force. He's on pace to rush for 1,629 yards, and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, nearly a yard better than Matt Forte did a year ago. He also leads the team with 40 receptions. He was asked if he sees a lot of eight men in the box.
"No, I see nine in a box,'' Jackson cracked.
He might be seeing some of Payne in the box on Sunday. The Bears rotate their free and strong safety, Al Afalava, and the move could be made with the idea in mind that Payne is more rugged in run support than Manning.
So, who knows at this point if the move is for the remainder of the season. But considering it's the 19th time Smith has changed starting free safeties since he arrived, rest assured the next swap isn't far off.