The Chicago Bears pass defense ranked 30th in the NFL last season and the defense as a whole gave up 21.9 points per game.
In the secondary they used Mike Brown, Kevin Payne, Charles Tillman, and Corey Graham. Danieal Manning was used as a nickel back and Nathan Vasher couldn’t stay healthy.
This season the 2009 Bears have sixth rounder Al Afalava starting at strong safety and Danieal Manning playing nickel back and free safety. They also have Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman as their corner backs. It looks like it is working. They also have Kevin Payne, Nathan Vasher and Corey Graham as some good solid depth.
Although this group only has one interception, which was by Charles Tillman against the Steelers. They have been able to control the four teams they have played so far this season, except in game one against Green Bay, when we all remember what Greg Jennings did to Kevin Payne and Nathan Vasher. The passing yardage of the opposing team has increased every game: 150-203-243-308. Teams are completing 62.3 percent of passes against, ranking 23rd overall and allowing 19.5 points per game.
Danieal Manning is clearly the best athlete on this defense because of his ability to play both the nickel and free safety position as well as being a successful blitzer. He was a very a good return man last season and has returned a couple this year, but Johnny Knox is good enough to claim that role. Anyway, Danieal has 30 tackles, tied for third in the NFL among DB’s, and a sack. He doesn’t look anything like the rookie, who struggled in Super Bowl XLI.
Charles Tillman came back from his back surgery sooner than most people thought and has looked solid covering some of the best receivers in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, Santonio Holmes, etc. Zackary Bowman was great this off-season and has looked good at times this season, but he isn’t the most consistent cornerback just yet.
Nathan Vasher and Kevin Payne both blew the game in Green Bay, when Greg Jennings beat them for a long touchdown which won Green Bay the game. They are both former starters, who just can’t get the job done when there in the lineup, but there good depth.
Al Afalava has to be the biggest surprise at strong safety. He was a sixth round pick out of Oregon State and he came into training camp later than most rookies because he had to go back to school. He is a big hitter and has been very consistent. I like him a lot, he reminds of a mixture of Chris Harris and Mike Brown.
Overall this pass defense is clearly better than last season, with a healthy Charles Tillman and a very athletic Danieal Manning this secondary is nice. Bowman and Afalava are very good players as well.