The Chicago Bears defense would appear to be set in stone with the 2019 on the horizon. They’re returned nine of their original 11 starters from last season. The only two missing are safety Adrian Amos and nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan. Both left via free agency for Green Bay and Denver respectively. Their replacements appear to be in place though.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, ironically a former Packers starter, will be filling Amos’ role on the back end next to Eddie Jackson. Meanwhile, veteran Buster Skrine has come over from the Jets to assume the nickel corner role. The Bears coaching staff has expressed confidence that the two players are more than qualified to handle the job without fear of a letdown.
However, there is an undercurrent of buzz going around. One that refuses to die away despite each passing week. Three primary Bears insiders discussed it on the Hoge and Jahns podcast. Adam Hoge (WGN), Adam Jahns and Kevin Fishbaine (The Athletic) were discussing how surprising the 2019 draft class has been thus far. That’s when the conversation shifted.
Duke Shelley may be starter on Chicago Bears defense soon
While David Montgomery and Riley Ridley have gotten most of the spotlight on the Bears offense, the three men noted that it’s been difficult to ignore the work done by 6th round cornerback out of Kansas State, Duke Shelley. Fishbaine explained how his play on the field and the quiet confidence the Bears brass show in him speaks volumes about his future.
“The thing about Shelley, and Adam Hoge who decided to work on Sunday with me at the Bears 100 ceremony, we were there at the Bears (front office) panel and Josh Lucas he said, ‘He’s someone who’s going to be here for a long time.’
This is somebody that we could not find anything about him when they drafted him…Well, you look at Buster Skrine. He’s the nickel right now and Buster is one of the older players on the team. He’s played eight seasons in the NFL. Then Sherrick McManis did a nice job filling in last year but he’s also at the later stages of his career. He has been worked a little bit at safety and he’s obviously special teams.
In an ideal world, Duke Shelley is your starting nickel in a couple years.”
At that point Hoge chimed in with an interesting comment.
“I almost wonder if we’re a couple weeks into camp and wondering if he’s pushing Buster already.”
One thing about this Bears team is they’ve come to embrace competition. It doesn’t matter how much money they gave you in free agency. Jobs still have to be earned. It’s the old George Halas credo. The best players will play. If Shelley is outperforming Skrine consistently in practice this summer, will the coaching staff start granting more snaps to Shelley?
Don’t put it past them. This team wants to win. If Shelley proves he can make more plays, they’ll give him the chance to do so. If it happens, that would be yet another feather in the cap for GM Ryan Pace.