Are you very familiar with Bryce Callahan?
If not, I wouldn’t be too surprised – the Bears No. 3 cornerback has played in just over half of the team’s defensive snaps. And yet, he’s managed to become PFF’s highest-graded Bears player through two weeks. Yup, according to Pro Football Focus, the Chicago Bears’ best player has played on just 55.4 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
Callahan’s 81.9 grade rates as above average, according to PFF’s grading scale and it trumps the grades handed out to starters Marcus Cooper (45.7) and Kyle Fuller (46.6). Rounding out the top-five Bears grades are defensive ends Akiem Hicks (79.6) and Mitch Unrein (79.3), running back Tarik Cohen (78.7), and injured linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (76.5).
Callahan, a the third-year corner from Rice who came to the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2015, has started in 14 of 22 games with the Bears and is no stranger to success, putting together what was called the most notable performance from a slot corner in 2016.
There haven’t been too many bright spots in an 0-2 start, but Callahan’s play deserves some recognition while he’s playing well. His play also allows us to ponder his role when the secondary returns to full health.
Cooper and Prince Amukamara – who head coach John Fox said hopes to return to the lineup Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers – have been primarily outside cornerbacks in their career and signed as free agents this offseason to be just that.
However, Cooper hasn’t been much of a factor defending the pass in the first two games (his 46.0 coverage grade in 71 pass defense snaps ranks 72nd among 103 qualifiers at PFF). Meanwhile, Callahan’s 82.0 grade checks in as the 18th best. Defending the slot is different world compared to playing outside, so perhaps it’s in the Bears’ best interest to maintain status quo while they aren’t at a disadvantage on the inside – especially against a team with a variety of receiver options.
The player who could lose the most playing time in a re-shuffled secondary is Fuller, who has played in 96.9 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps thorugh two games. Fuller looks to be in for for a sharp decline in playing time if Amukamara returns healthy and Callahan continues to play his role perfectly in the secondary.