CHICAGO — As the Bears prepare to report July 19 for training camp at Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais, the Chicago Tribune is taking a look at each position group.
Currently on roster: 6.
Projected on final roster: 4-5.
Roster locks: Eddie Jackson, Adrian Amos.
On the bubble: Deon Bush, Deiondre' Hall, DeAndre Houston-Carson.
Practice-squad candidates: Nick Orr.
Biggest offseason developments: The Bears released veteran Quintin Demps after the first season of a three-year contract and didn't make any significant offseason additions. After the Bears drafted six safeties from 2014 to '17, general manager Ryan Pace focused on other positions in the 2018 draft.
What to like: The Bears' lack of offseason movement at safety indicates some faith in the group that returns.
Eddie Jackson, who dropped to the fourth round after breaking a leg in his senior season at Alabama, started all 16 games as a rookie, totaling 73 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries. He scored two 75-yard touchdowns against the Panthers on an interception return and a fumble return.
Defensive backs coach Ed Donatell said Jackson improved his tackling as the season went on, and assistant DBs coach Roy Anderson said he liked how Jackson's communication skills grew.
"We told him: 'Hey, go out there and make calls. You're in the NFL for a reason. Just because you're a rookie, that doesn't mean you can't speak up,'" Anderson said. "So he started doing that. He really took off. He's a talented player and sees the game well.
"A rookie, you just want them to be vocal. Not saying they have to be a rah-rah type of guy, but you definitely want them to be a quarterback. He showed he can do that."
Donatell and Anderson used the word "hungry" to describe Adrian Amos last year.
After starting 30 games over his first two seasons, Amos dropped to second string behind Demps and Jackson when the 2017 season began. But he received his starting shot in Week 4 after Demps broke an arm. Anderson said there was no drop-off as Amos started 10 games with 69 tackles, an interception return for a touchdown, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"His knowledge of the system (helped him), and he prepares really well," Anderson said. "He's a very good student, and the game is pretty easy for him. Once he got a chance to play, it was next man up, and he took advantage of it. So the way he prepares really helped him step in and have the year he had."
DeAndre Houston-Carson returns as a special teams staple. Deon Bush looks to continue a good spring. Deiondre' Hall has plenty to prove after missing most of 2017 with a hamstring injury.
Biggest question: Will the Bears extend Amos' contract?
Amos understands some may have raised their eyebrows when Pro Football Focus named him to its All-Pro team alongside Vikings safety Harrison Smith this offseason. But he simply sees the praise as motivation.
"It's give and take with people's opinions," Amos said. "I know they (PFF evaluators) have their stats line. I know some people would view it as bogus, but some of the top guys that were on there, I just felt honored to be in good company. ... Just to have me up there in a conversation like that makes me want to work to improve ... to try to be in that category."
Anderson had a similar explanation as PFF when talking about the consistency he liked from Amos in 2017: He helped to create turnovers but didn't sacrifice his job while trying to make a splash.
Now the Bears will have to decide whether Amos, a fifth-round pick in 2015, is someone they want to keep around beyond his fourth season.
Fresh face: Nick Orr joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent out of TCU, where he had nine interceptions over four seasons and was named first-team All-Big 12 by coaches his senior year.
You should know: Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio offered unprompted praise for Bush's improvement during Fangio's lone media session this spring. Donatell and Anderson said the improvement stems from another year in the system.
"He's doing a good job anticipating plays from the back end," Anderson said. "He's doing a good job of seeing routes develop and also just being explosive back there. He's a naturally talented guy as far as his explosion and his speed. And so now that his vision has improved on the back end, it's allowed him to make some plays that we've been seeing in these OTAs."
Quote of note: "It's very different. You get to know the schemes better. You learn how to break down film better and really have that knowledge of the game, especially after playing your rookie season. I'm ready to come in and work and am really excited for the season." -- Jackson on entering his second season.
Big number: 3 — Interceptions by safeties out of the Bears' total of eight in 2017. Amos and Jackson had the only two returned for touchdowns.