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So much good stuff, and then there are the Bears safeties

Steve Rosenbloom

The RosenBlog

9:30 AM CDT, August 20, 2012

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The Bears’ passing game? Just like big-boy offenses.

The Bears’ running game? Looks like third-and-1 is no longer their version of clown college.

The Bears’ pass rush? Look at you, Israel Idonije, finally racking up sacks the way someone playing opposite Julius Peppers ought to.

The Bears’ safety play? Stop right there and get back to the good stuff that came out of the practice game against Washington.

The passing game immediately produced what everyone waited to see: Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall. After that, Cutler completed passes to targets that were open, and some that weren’t, and it was beautiful.

The rushing game provided the precise reason that Michael Bush was brought here: to pick up every and-1 for one of the worst third-and-1 teams in the league last season. Bush produced two red zone touchdowns Saturday, one with a stunning bit of footwork. He’s going to swoop in on those chances, so, keep that in mind, fantasy owner, and draft Mike Trout.

The blocking, especially at left tackle, was better, but Brian Orakpo was injured early, so we still don’t have the conclusive answer we’ll get during Giantpocalypse on Friday night. The Super Bowl champs have what they call a NASCAR unit where they put four defensive ends on the line in pass-rushing situations and dare you to do something about it.

In all, so much good stuff came out of Saturday’s exhibition game.

However, so much season-killing fear came out of the safety position.

I’m trying to be Stevie Sunshine here because I’m a pleaser, not a teaser, but sorry, there’s a dark cloud hanging back there. The Bears have an I problem at safety: injury, ineptitude, inability to coach 'em up to something above uh-oh levels.

Chris Conte suffered a right shoulder injury and was last seen with his arm in a sling, which unfortunately might stand as the Bears’ symbol if this season collapses.

Brandon Hardin, the guy who was drafted pre-injured, left nearly permanently injured Saturday night. After a miserable tackle attempt in which he led with his head down, Hardin needed to be carted off. He was released from the hospital Sunday and said he’ll be OK. Yes. Well. There’s no belief that Hardin can diagnose as a doctor any better than he can tackle as a safety.

Even before the injury, Hardin represented another silly draft choice that made you think Jerry Angelo was still around. Hardin missed all of last season because he had a broken shoulder. The Bears like their draft choices pre-injured; Hardin came inert for a full season. Phil Emery out-Angelo’d Angelo.

Maybe it’s me, but a guy who didn’t play all year figured to have problems with tackling technique, which is not something the Bears practice, which is how you go from the field to the emergency room. So Bears. So Bears safety.

Major Wright remains available, at least until his next injury, and there will be one, believe me, probably this week. If not, there will be bad angles taken and big plays behind him. Fun.

The steadiest safety back there probably is Craig Steltz, a big hitter at strong safety who takes too long to to get there at free safety or else he’d be starting.

Nobody who let scrub Kirk Cousins march the Redskins down the field could believe the depth chart holds a surprise starter. A forced starter, maybe. But a surprise who earns it? Nope.

I mean, Anthony Walters has moved up to third on the Bears’ list of healthy safeties. I don’t know if he can start. I don’t think the Bears know. One thing we all know, however, is that the pressure would be on Peppers and Idonije to make sure nobody finds out.

That’s some scouting report, huh?

You already knew this is an ongoing problem for the Bears --- this position with these coaches with every draft class. Such a characterization would hold true even if Conte, Hardin and eventually Wright weren’t injured. The injuries just make it worse, and after living through the likes of Al Afalava as a starter, who believed that position could be worse?

The Choice (and remember, death is not an option): The Bears’ list of safeties since Mike Brown’s departure or the Bears’ list of quarterbacks during Brett Favre’s Packers career?

Remember, we’re talking about the second-most important position in coach Lovie Smith’s beloved Tampa-2 defensive scheme. Defensive tackle comes first with pressure up the middle. Then comes safety, swooping in on passes thrown sooner and sloppier to vulnerable receivers than the pressured quarterback intended.

Smith knows this, so how come he can’t get the position right?