Chicago Bears free safety Chris Conte formed one of the worst safety duos in the NFL last season, as he and Major Wright were torched repeatedly. Their struggles embodied the overall struggles of the Bears defense, which was easily one of the worst units last year and held back an elite offensive attack. Wright is gone, but Conte returns with defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. 2013 seems like an anomaly of a year for Conte, because even though he was the one who made horrific plays like that blown coverage in Week 17, he used to be a pretty solid player before the wheels fell off last year. Here’s to hoping that better health and massive upgrades in the front seven will help Conte bounce back in 2014.
For now, the Bears projected starting free safety will have to get healthy, as ESPN Chicago’s Michael C. Wright reports that Conte could start training camp on the active/PUP list and miss a portion of camp while he recovers from a shoulder surgery that he underwent in the spring. His initial timeline of recovery was set at 4-5 months, which put him at a return at some point in the preseason. Last month, Bears head coach Marc Trestman stated that Conte might not be ready for the start of camp, and it’s looking like a return in August will be the most likely scenario for Conte.
He should be able to hold off the underwhelming M.D. Jennings, but the 25-year-old Cal product could have stiff competition from Brock Vereen, whose older brother Shane also went to Cal. The younger Vereen was a star at Minnesota last season, and he’s an intriguing rookie with a well-rounded skill-set. Conte is still the slight favorite to start, but he has to get healthy and show that his 2013 struggles are a thing of the past.