If the Chicago Bears’ collection of outside linebackers create as much havoc in the backfield as they believe they can, the team’s new-look secondary could be a major beneficiary.
Pernell McPhee and Willie Young made it clear that they have great expectations for 2017, as they hope to rush the passer with the same kind of ferocity they did to close out the regular season. But Prince Amukamara and the secondary have high hopes too.
Over at the Chicago Sun-Times, Patrick Finley catches up with Prince Amukamara, the free agent cornerback who signed a one-year contract with the Bears and hopes to bring something back to the team that he learned from a former Chicago corner.
Amukamara, who will take over the role as veteran starting cornerback in place of the released Tracy Porter, says he wants to bring back an old Bears tradition in playing the balls and forcing turnovers. When he was with the New York Giants, Amukamara said he and his teammates learned a trick from former Bears cornerback Zack Bowman, who was forcing turnovers in practice at a dizzying pace because of his use of the Peanut Punch – something he learned from Charles Tillman during their time together in Chicago. If Amukamara can apply what he learned from his former Giants teammate, it would be a welcome addition to a defensive unit that struggled to force turnovers in 2016.
Bears opponents committed just 11 turnovers in 2016, which is one of the reasons the team finished in the bottom third in points allowed per game. Chicago’s defense forced 10 fumbles, but recovered only three. And while that technically still counts as a step in the right direction compared to the six forced fumbles by the 2015 team, the Bears will need more production in that department in 2017.
Fellow secondary members Quintin Demps and Adrian Amos can play a role in making this happen.
Pro Football Weekly’s Kevin Fishbain writes that Amos also has his eyes set improving the defense’s production by forcing more turnovers in 2017. Amos has been lined up next to Demps in OTAs, and projects to be a primary starter once again. He has made 30 starts over the last two seasons and has been graded by Pro Football Focus as an above average player in each of those years. Amos’ 81.7 grade in 2016 ranked 26th among 90 qualifying safeties. Demps, his new teammate who had almost as many interceptions (six) as the Bears did as a team (eight) in 2016, was PFF’s 12th best safety with an 85.2 grade that put him in the “high quality” class on the site’s grading scale.
Maybe some of those playmaking skills will rub off on Amos, who has one interception in 1,968 snaps over the last two seasons.
GM Ryan Pace has overhauled the Bears’ secondary, which features five new players and five returning players who will be playing in their age 24 season or younger. Amukamara and Demps will step into veteran leadership roles as they enter position group loaded with inexperienced players. There will obviously be some continued growing pains, but a renewed focus on winning the turnover battle with some new faces could lead to something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.