Training Camp Battle: Cornerback Depth

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 11: Golden Tate
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 11: Golden Tate /

The Bears made significant changes to their secondary. How will things shake out at cornerback?

Ryan Pace knew after last season that the Chicago Bears’ secondary needed a lot of help. So he spent his main focus in free agency on both the safety and cornerback positions.

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Neither position is top-heavy in talent but the Bears are deeper in the secondary than they have been in quite some time.

Pace brought in quite a few corners via free agency, but two stand out. Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper should both be expected to be starting opposite each other week one.

It would be sensible to think that Bryce Callahan returns to getting the bulk of his snaps at slot corner. Callahan spent some time on the outside last year and didn’t look as comfortable when he was out there as he did in 2015 when he mostly played the slot and excelled at the position.

While Amukamara, Cooper and Callahan aren’t going to be mistaken for the Legion of Boom, it is a respectable secondary that should keep receivers covered long enough for the front seven to get some pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

Unfortunately, injuries will be inevitable at the position and the Bears are going to need some reliable subs that can step in and play. The competition for these remaining corner spots will be tight and hotly contested.

Kyle Fuller will be an interesting player to watch this camp. Fuller is one of the few holdovers from Phil Emery’s teams and of course a former first round pick. Nobody really knows where Fuller is after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

Unless Fuller is a massive surprise, it doesn’t appear that the Bears see Fuller in their future plans, but Fuller is a former high draft choice that has flashed some ability on Sundays. Pace will most likely hope that Fuller performs well enough during the preseason that a corner-hungry team would be willing to trade for Fuller prior to the season, even if it’s for a low draft pick.

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After Fuller, last year’s fourth round pick Deiondre Hall will be one to watch but not at this position. The Bears are going to give Hall a long look at safety and see how he plays there. Hall’s future with the team does not appear to be at cornerback. The Bears would also be wise to try Kyle Fuller at safety as well, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards at this juncture.

After Hall and Fuller, the competition is wide open. Cre’von LeBlanc would appear to have a roster position safely in hand after flashing some ability last season after Pace scooped him up from the New England Patriots before Bill Belichick could stash him on his practice squad. LeBlanc finished second among rookies with 8 pass breakups (trailing only Jalen Ramsey) and had a stellar game against the Detroit Lions. Expect LeBlanc to see plenty of snaps at corner.

Sherrick McManis has been with the Bears for a long time and has been a key member of Chicago’s special teams units over that stretch. McManis’ future will not only depend on his performance, but also on the performance of other players on special teams. If the Bears feel that they now have enough talent on the unit to move on from McManis they probably will but if the Bears need his presence on special teams they will make sure to find a roster spot for the veteran.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears /

Chicago Bears

If the Bears keep 6 CBs that means there will be 0 to 2 roster spots left depending on the future of Fuller and McManis. It seems difficult to imagine both Fuller and McManis sticking being neither really fits in the Bears’ future plans. That means there should be one more spot open to a camp battle.

That last spot will be a battle between BW Webb, Jonathan Banks and potentially Rashaad Reynolds. Reynolds was signed to the practice squad late in the year last year and that is likely where he will remain.

Webb was signed in the offseason after spending last season with the New Orleans Saints. This is his fifth season in the league and Chicago is his fifth potential team.

Banks was signed last December after the Detroit Lions released him. He has some levels of success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before they traded him to Detroit last season. Banks has been a more successful corner at the NFL level than Webb, but both are 27 and no one should expect either of them to be a diamond in the rough. Both should be considered depth pieces.

The top of the corner position appears largely settled but the bottom is wide open and anyone could earn a roster spot after Cooper, Amukamara, Callahan and LeBlanc.