Chicago Bears safety Antrel Rolle has played a remarkable career thus far.
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Entering his 11th season in the NFL at age 32, the former University of Miami product has three Pro Bowl selections to his name, and has captured a Super Bowl win as a member of the New York Giants 2012. Rolle also led the NFL in interception return yards in 2007.
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However, Rolle is coming off a not-so-great 2014, the last season of his five-year, $37 million contract with the Giants. A year after leading the NFL’s safeties in interceptions with six and a third Pro Bowl selection, Rolle’s production took a bit of a dive. After a three-game stretch of three interceptions and one forced fumble to start the season, he produced zeros in both categories the rest of the season.
As Nick Powell of NJ.com pointed out, Rolle finished 2014 with a -13.9 Pro Football Focus rating, making him the seventh-worst safety in the NFL in the category. Powell also noted that Rolle’s seven penalties tied for third-most among NFL safeties.
Seeing this type of play from a highly-respected player with the leadership capabilities that he has portrayed since entering the league in 2005 is a little disheartening. Rolle has been a fairly consistent player his entire career, and he’s the type of guy that coaches love and locker rooms desire.
Rolle has a lot to prove in Chicago, and that was apparent as soon as he signed his multi-year deal. The former Big East and ACC first-teamer agreed to a three-year, $11.25 million contract–a massive decrease from the contract he signed with the Giants in 2010 that made him one of the highest paid safeties in the NFL.
He has to be able to earn the trust of John Fox and company, as far as his ability to play at a high level goes. Last season, his pass defense was down from previous years and his already sub-par rush defense took a hit as well. He ranked in the bottom-ten in both missed tackles and yards after catch allowed.
Looking at the glass half-full, there really isn’t a way that Rolle could get much worse. But it’s also possible that the aging safety can make a name for himself in Chicago.
He enters training camp with a chance to start alongside fellow veteran safety Ryan Mundy. If given the starting spot, Rolle will put himself in position to recapture his reputation as a playmaker and a leader.
Dec 15, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants strong safety Antrel Rolle (26) intercepts a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Seattle Seahawks defeat the New York Giants 23-0. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
The hard part is regaining that playmaking edge that Rolle has always scared opposing quarterbacks with. For the sake of improving both his own defense and that of the Bears, which has been one the league’s worst in recent years, he needs to figure out how to shutdown the passing game again. The last thing this organization probably wants is an investment like Rolle go to waste.
Pure play aside–as aforementioned–Rolle has an innate ability to be a leader of men. And his presence on the Chicago roster can be effective both on a team and individual level. In terms of the team, Rolle typically assumes the role of the leader on the field when he is in the game.
But in terms of the individual, Rolle, should serve as a mentor for Adrain Amos. The rookie safety out of Penn State was solid in coverage while in the NCAA, but is a tad raw now that he is at the next level. Rolle now has the opportunity to shape Amos both as a player and as a leader.
Considering his age, Antrel Rolle probably only has a few years left in the tank. Following his three-year deal, he’ll likely retire or just sign a one-year deal somewhere.
But now, in a new city with a new team, he can attempt to start fresh and regain the form that has made him one of the league’s great safeties in past.
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