Reliable. Consistent. Disciplined.
When thinking of the Chicago Bears’ current safeties, none of those words come to mind. With the fourth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft, general manager Phil Emery very well might have found a guy who fits that description.
Coming out of the University of Minnesota, safety Brock Vereen started seven games at strong safety, 11 at free safety, four at left cornerback and 14 at right cornerback so the Bears know they are getting a versatile player. They are getting a consistent one, as well, as Vereen played 36 games in four years and has brought the same grit and discipline to each game.
This is a big factor, because unlike safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte, Vereen put his coaches at ease, allowing them to go to bed the night before a game knowing they’ll get the same from him day in and day out. Having bloodlines in the NFL doesn’t hurt, either, as older brother Shane plays for the New England Patriots. This will help motivate him to be the best he can be; after all, every little brother dreams of being better than their big brother in almost every aspect.
While he isn’t the most flashy player with the bone-breaking hits you normally see on tape of other guys, something stuck out to the Bears brass — his ability to be in the right spot at the right time.
He also knows how to tackle, something that is lost on both Conte and Wright. Last year, Vereen had 59 tackles, 41 of which were unassisted. With Conte sidelined due to rehabilitation from his shoulder injury, and with the Bears low on reliability at this position, Vereen has a very solid chance to come in and immediately contribute. The other draft picks have a chance to contribute as well, but safety is a position of need that the Bears cannot afford to screw up again, and Vereen gives them the best chance to succeed.
In regard to the offseason free agent acquisitions at safety, M.D. Jennings is unproven (one interception and three passes defended in three years with the Green Bay Packers) and Ryan Mundy has been a spot starter during his underwhelming career (two interceptions, 10 passes defended and one sack in five years between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers). While both are durable, those statistics are not the kind Bears fans want to see out of their safeties.
Those two will get their shot to prove themselves, but Vereen’s versatility and dependability help him stand out as the frontrunner heading into OTAs and mandatory minicamp. So far, the Bears are impressed with his progress as well as his intelligence and willingness to learn as much as he can, so that is promising. He knows what he has to do to prove himself on the field, and is confident in his abilities. If he can stack up against some of the bigger athletes despite his 30-inch wingspan and 6-foot, 199-pound build, he will be well on his way to a starting position.
Despite his shortcomings, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has to be pleased with Vereen’s athletic ability and eagerness to learn. It’s up to Vereen to accomplish his goal of becoming a starter, and Bears fans everywhere are hoping he becomes the long-term solution for the problems at the safety position that have plagued the team for years.