Posted by Matt Clapp | 8/08/2013 12:28:00 AM | C.J. Wilson, Charles Tillman, Demontre Hurst, Isaiah Frey, Kelvin Hayden, Sherrick McManis, Tim Jennings
Bad news on the injury front for the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, as it was revealed that cornerback Kelvin Hayden will undergo surgery to repair a torn hamstring that he suffered during Family Fest on Saturday night at Soldier Field. It's a six-to-eight month recovery period after the surgery, so Hayden will miss the entire 2013 season.
The 30-year-old Hayden was set to be the team's nickel back this season, and that's a very important defensive role in the pass-heavy NFL. And it's an especially important role when you're going to face terrific passing teams in the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions twice a year each, as the Bears will.
Additionally, Hayden was a starting cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts from 2007-2010, and still (when healthy, obviously) was a very capable fill-in at cornerback if Charles Tillman or Tim Jennings were to suffer an injury. His loss is felt in more ways than just his role as as nickel back.
In 2012, Hayden had 37 tackles, one interception, and five pass deflections with the Bears. He replaced former Bear D.J. Moore as the nickel back in-season, and the Bears then signed Hayden to another one-year, $905,000 deal over this offseason to play the same role.
Now, Isaiah Frey takes over as the nickel back, and he'd already taken over the role in practice over the last few days as Hayden sat out with his injury (which nobody thought was very serious initially). On Tuesday, I wrote about the Bears' preseason depth chart that was released after Monday's practice, and had this to say about Frey and the cornerbacks behind him on the depth chart:
Perhaps no player at Bears camp has turned heads more than Isaiah Frey, a sixth-round pick by the Bears in 2012. Frey is listed as a third-stringer at the moment, but is currently filling in for Hayden at nickel back as Hayden rests due to a hamstring pull. Frey has been great in coverage all camp, batting down passes, and even intercepting passes (as he did on one Cutler pass Tuesday). He's the main cornerback to watch closely in the preseason games.
Sherrick McManis is also a third-stringer, but like Bowman, is around primarily for his contributions on special teams. C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst are fourth-stringers, and would need to greatly impress over the next month to have any chance at roster spots.
With Hayden's injury, I guess Frey picked a pretty damn good time to noticeably improve his play (in camp so far, at least), right?
Additionally, with Tillman, Jennings, and Hayden all free agents after this season, Frey has a chance to show general manager Phil Emery, and the Bears' coaching staff, that he could be a potential starting option at cornerback for 2014 and beyond. So you know he'll be extremely motivated to do well.
Of course, the 6'1", 190-pound Frey has never even played in an NFL game yet; he spent all of 2012 on the practice squad. And we know that you can only take so much out of what a player does in training camp/preseason games. We won't truly know what he brings to them table for a while.
If Frey, Tillman, or Jennings get hurt (and odds are at least one of them will suffer at least a minor injury over the season), then it's down to guys that are primarily on the roster for special teams in Zack Bowman and Sherrick McManis. I'm not saying they aren't capable short-term plug-ins, but you'd rather just keep them in the roles they're in now.
I'd have to think Emery will look at free-agent options for cornerback depth, especially once teams start making cuts over the next few weeks. But definitely keep an eye on how Frey, McManis, and the rest of the backup cornerbacks perform on Friday night in the Bears' preseason opener at the Carolina Panthers.
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