ILB Nick Kwiatkoski -With ILBs Jerrell Freeman and DannyTrevathan both healthy it will be tough for Kwiatkoski to find consistent snaps during the second half of the season, but he’s flashed legit potential in limited snaps so far in his rookie season. He’s brought a physicality and hard-hitting demeanor that the Bears defense has been lacking for so many years.
Kwiatkoski got off to a slow start this year with an injury, but as he’s been worked back into the lineup he looks like a keeper at inside linebacker. I was a big fan of his in college and his natural instincts, willingness to hit, and good speed could make Kwiatkoski a fixture at ILB in the near future for the Bears.
CB Bryce Callahan -Like Kwiatkoski, Callahan just likes to hit. He’s been the Bears best tackler among corners and has shown a knack for stopping wide receiver screens before they can get started. He closes fast on the ball and despite his small frame, has been a willing hitter in his year and a half with the Bears.
Callahan was another guy that I was very high on in the draft and was shocked the Bears were able to get him as an undrafted free agent. The Bears defense has been toothless for so many years, but guys like Callahan and Kwiatkoski are slowly changing the demeanor of the defense back to where it should be.
On the field Callahan has been impressive since his rookie season, but the problem is that he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Hamstring issues have kept Calahan from suiting up every week and solidifying his spot as the starting slot corner. If Callahan can stay healthy the rest of the year and continue his strong play, he should be able to lock up the slot role for the foreseeable future.
CB De’Vante Bausby – The Bears have been searching for a tall corner since GM Ryan Pace took over before the 2015 season. Free agent Alan Ball (6’2) was a disaster last year, but this season the Bears drafted 6’2 Deiondre Hall (more later) and signed 6’2 Devante Bausby to their practice squad. With all the injuries in the secondary so far this year, Bausby has gotten a chance to play earlier than expected but the results have been mixed (at best) so far.
Bausby has good speed for his size (4.48-4.58), natural ball skills (11 college INTs), and is big enough to eventually be a factor against the run. He’s still very raw, as we’ve seen so far this season, but the talent is there to be a rare tall corner who can cover. Bausby should get plenty of snaps the rest of the season to prove if he can be a part of the Bears future secondary.
CB Deiondre Hall – One of the Bears 4th round picks this season, Hall got off to a great start with a couple of preseason interceptions and two pass deflections in the end zone in the Bears first two games this season. Unfortunately, Hall suffered an injury which sapped his progress and has kept him on the sidelines the last few weeks.
Like Bausby, Hall is a ridiculously tall corner (6’2) with excellent ball skills (13 college INTs). He’s not quite as fast as Bausby and there are legitimate questions whether his 4.68 speed is fast enough to play corner in the NFL. One thing he does excel at is in run defense, he was a force against the run in college and may be a better fit at safety in the NFL.
Hall should be back within a week or two and has the second half of the season to prove that his fast start wasn’t a fluke and that he has the ability to play corner in the NFL. If Hall, Callahan, and maybe one more young corner can continue to develop, the Bears should be in good shape in the secondary for the first time in many years.
CB Cre’Von LeBlanc -The Bears just signed LeBlanc three weeks ago, but he has already become an important part of the Bears defensive scheme. The Bears snatched LeBlanc off the Patriots practice squad and he immediately stepped in as the Bears slot corner when Callahan was injured.
Like Callahan, LeBlanc is a small corner (5’9) but also well built (196 pounds) and a fierce competitor. Both players willingly throw themselves full speed into much larger players and are surprisingly physical against bigger receivers.
I was high on LeBlanc coming out of college and think he can earn a spot in the Bears future secondary with a solid second half of the season. He’s already been given a chance as the Bears primary punt returner and should be involved in nickel and dime schemes even if Callahan is healthy.
The combination of LeBlanc and Callahan could give the Bears two tough, feisty slot corners who can shut down the underneath game and contribute against the run. The both have eight games left this season to prove that they belong in the Bears plans for 2017.
S Harold Jones-Quartey – The Bears have played with a safety combo of Adrian Amos and HJQ with just two years of experience between them and the results have been unsurprisingly mixed. Amos has been the more consistent player, which is expected as a three-year starter at Penn St. Jones-Quartey, on the other hand, came out of DII Findlay College.
With such a big jump in competition between Findlay and the NFL, it is pretty amazing that HJQ has been able to contribute at all but he’s shown flashes of being an impact player. He’s also made plenty of mistakes, but his speed, energy, and willingness to sacrifice his body to make a hit are all impressive and bode well for his future with the Bears.
HJQ clearly has the size (6’0, 215) and athleticism (4.60) to play in this league, but he needs to become more consistent and stop making coverage gaffes. He’s got half of a season to prove that he’s the right player to line up next to Amos and if he can’t the Bears will probably look to replace HJQ this offseason.