INDIANAPOLIS — Adding to the secondary may not be a top priority for the Chicago Bears, a team with more pressing needs. However, there are a couple of reasons why they may look to add more players to develop at these positions.
Eddie Jackson had a nice rebound season in 2022, but the former all-pro safety isn’t getting any younger and is coming off a serious injury. And with only a couple of years remaining on his contract, the Bears would benefit from adding someone they believe could develop into his eventual replacement.
When head coach Matt Eberflus met with the media on Monday, he was asked about his secondary. Here’s what he had to say:
“Jaquan [Brisker] learned a lot from Eddie [Jackson],” Eberflus said. “So it’s a big piece that we have that continuity, we have some continuity in the secondary with Jaylon [Johnson] and [Kyler] Gordon and have some really good pieces back there.
What stood out to me was Eberflus only naming four players directly, which could leave the door open for the Bears to draft a rookie at cornerback to pair with Johnson and Gordon. Kindle Vildor didn’t prove enough to give the Bears reason to simply roll into next season with him as a starter.
They also have two promising players in Jaylon Jones and Josh Blackwell, which turned some heads last season despite going undrafted. Still, the Bears should continue to add more young talent to the position to create stronger competition.
Here are some tidbits I gathered Thursday on a handful of defensive backs the Bears could look to take on Day 2 and Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Brandon Hill, Pittsburgh
Hill raved about his instincts and aggressive mindset. It’s the physicality he plays with that he believes got him to this spot. When asked about some of his other strengths, he mentioned that his range is something else that sets him apart.
JL Skinner, Boise State
The big news surrounding Skinner is the injury he suffered while training for the combine. He tore his pec while doing warmups on the bench press and will have surgery on it next week.
Skinner went on to discuss that even though he’s a bigger guy (6-foot-4, 220-pounds) has the speed and quickness to stick with some of the faster guys in the slot. The top three attributes he shared about himself were physical, rangy and aggressive.
He played various coverages in college including deep middle and man. Plus, he shared that there were times when he had three different coverages on the same play, but it was up to his reads before and after the snap to determine which was the correct one to use.
When it comes to his playing style, Skinner said he likes to punish guys.
“Make them think twice before coming around me,” Skinner told reporters Thursday.
Brandon Joseph, Notre Dame
Joseph is a safety that excels in deep zone coverage. He said that one of his biggest strengths is his football intelligence.
He mentioned wide receivers Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba as players he went up against that are elite route runners. Joseph was also asked which quarterback was the best he faced this year and started his answer by saying, “Justin” before catching onto the “this year” part of the question and changing his answer to CJ Stroud.
I looked up his game log, and he played Bears QB Justin Fields twice while at Northwestern.
Rashad Torrence, Florida
Another deep safety in the draft class that the Bears could be interested in the later rounds is Torrence. He was wearing a necklace to honor his late grandmother who always wanted to see him play football on TV.
When asked about why he plays the game, Torrence said it’s simply where his heart is at.
Alex Austin, Oregon State
Austin is a tremendous person off the field. He spoke to reporters about his “Overcoming Adversity Scholarship” that he started and added the fact that he was the first college student to ever make his own scholarship.
On the field, he’s a cornerback that has good length and size that also likes to bully receivers in press coverage. When asked about a receiver that gave him a challenge, he brought up USC’s Jordan Addison for his route running and twitchiness on the perimeter.
When it comes to interviews with teams, he said the weirdest question was during an interview over the phone where he was asked if he is an apple or an orange. He chose apple because “I’m solid to the core.” This was the correct answer because oranges are soft under the skin.
Darius Rush, South Carolina
Rush is a cornerback that has great length and size at (6-foot-2, 200-pounds). He said that his long speed is a definite strength of his game. When asked about what scheme he would prefer, Rush said it doesn’t matter and will execute his job no matter what is asked of him. This is due to being detailed and disciplined. He believes his overall IQ of the game is strong, too.
As a former wide receiver, he said his experience on the other side of the ball has helped him gain ball skills, and the understanding of leverage and the routes receivers are running. Even though he’s new to the position, he believes his strong showing during the Senior Bowl is proof that he’s a defensive back.
With him still learning the position, he will most likely play special teams at the next level while he continues to work on his game. That’s no problem for Rush who has enjoyed playing special teams throughout his college career.
Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama
Luter shared his deep desire for continued improvement and understands now is not the time to get comfortable.
He went on to add that a lot of his success is due to watching film. This allowed him to pick up tendencies and talked about the film study being a big reason behind his ball production by being able to identify what offenses were about to do.
Julius “Ju Ju” Brents, Kansas State
At 6-foot-3, Brents believe he is much quicker and more agile than most think when they see a corner of his stature. He said he has great fluidity to his game and can flip his hips to get into position to make plays on the ball. More so than other bigger guys.
He watched a lot of Richard Sherman growing up and likes to emulate his game after him. Brents enjoys watching film and says it is important in order to understand his assignments and keys each week, which helps him be “fully locked in.”
His passion for the game started back as a child when he began playing football at the age of six.
Defensive back is not a pressing need for the Chicago Bears but it would not be a surprise if they ended up drafting a player or two at either safety or corner, especially if they acquire additional picks to use in the later stages of the draft.
Keep the above names handy in case the Bears end up drafting one of these players.