Because my mind wanders, I still find myself making hand-written grocery lists when I go shopping. To this day, it feels good crossing something off the list.
From a Chicago Bears’ perspective – thanks to the signings of Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel – wide receiver is now one thing we can cross off their offseason list. Indeed, for the first time in a long time, the Bears don’t have a glaring need at the position, and it looks like it could stay that way for a while. Of course, that doesn’t mean the Bears are done shopping – not by a long shot.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has an updated list of needs for each team after the first round of free agency, and for the Bears, there’s a bit of a surprise. According to Zierlein, Chicago “could use more depth and competition” among the third cornerback position, despite the re-signings of Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller earlier this offseason. Hmm. Okay, I’ll bite.
Note: For what it’s worth, offensive line is also listed as a need after the departure of Josh Sitton, and the same can be said about edge rusher and defensive line, but let’s focus on the Bears’ cornerback conundrum (for now), which probably caught some of you off guard.
To start, let’s not glance over the third corner’s importance. Indeed, that spot often goes overlooked, because the third cornerback in a defensive set usually defends the slot, but it shouldn’t be so dismissed. The Bears used a nickel corner on more than 50 percent of their defensive snaps in 15 of their 16 games last season. Not only is that a pretty significant number, but the usage of three-receiver sets is still pretty common.
Remember, three-receiver sets are becoming the norm in the NFL. Entering 2017, the usage of “11” personnel (three receivers, one tight end, one running back) has been on the rise in each of the last five years and nearly reached 60 percent in 2016. That generally means one fewer linebacker and one more defensive back.
Since those numbers aren’t declining any time soon, and the NFC North’s group of starting quarterbacks might collectively be the best in the NFL, the Bears would be wise to bulk up on secondary members while they can.
Other top corners include Auburn All-American Carlton Davis, Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver, and Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. And then, of course, there’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, the do-it-all Alabama defensive back who could slide into that role and a variety of others. He was recently mocked to go to the Bears with the eighth pick and could be one of the players who slides to Chicago if there is an early run on quarterbacks in the upcoming drafts.