Few players have come under the sniper scope of Chicago Bears fans quite like free safety Chris Conte. Is their ire warranted or a little too over the top?
Green Bay Packers debacle overshadows his notable progress
The reasoning often referenced regarding why Conte is not even worth a roster spot for the Chicago Bears is because he was the worst safety on tape and the stat sheet for the team in 2013. In truth however, and not everybody will admit it, the more likely explanation is because he was the easiest player to blame on that gut wrenching final defensive play against the Green Bay Packers last December that saw Randall Cobb streak down the field on a game-winning touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers.
Conte was the last line of defense on that play and wasn’t within ten yards of Cobb. It was later explained that the young safety failed to get a proper signal from linebacker James Anderson that called for an all-out blitz. Without that adjustment Conte stayed with his original coverage rather than switching to man-to-man. As a result, Cobb made the play and Conte has been the scapegoat ever since.
Chicago Bears right to give him crack at Brock Vereen and Danny McCray
In reviewing the 2013 campaign, which was a forgettable one for the entire Bears defense, Chris Conte does deserve some blame. He struggled at times in coverage and wasn’t a big help stopping the run. At the same time, looking more closely saw a player that still managed to make progress on a personal level despite playing on a unit gutted by injuries. Conte played all 16 games and finished with 90 tackles, three interceptions and a force fumble. All were career highs.
Just based on the first preseason game it appears the front seven is noticeably improved, particularly the pass rush. In fact his first practice back from shoulder surgery Conte recorded an interception for a touchdown. He’s only 25-years old and is not only the most experienced of the free safeties on the team, but also the biggest at 6’2″. His two primary competitors are Brock Vereen and Danny McCray. Vereen is a rookie 4th round pick and McCray is a special teams stalwart with just ten games of starting experience in four seasons.
The Chicago Bears are under no obligations to hand Chris Conte anything, but they are doing the right thing by giving him every opportunity to prove he deserves another chance, regardless of what happened last year. If he is the best safety on the roster, he needs to be on the field. As Michael Strahan so eloquently said, “The past is the *bleeping* past.”
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