The safety position frequently was mismanaged during the Lovie Smith era and as one former front office man said, the defense required two Pro Bowl safeties, players the Bears seemed to be searching for every offseason. Imagine the turnover that would have been avoided if they had chosen Weddle, who will start for the Chargers against the Bears on Monday night at Qualcomm Stadium.
Weddle's first NFL start came against the Bears in the '07 opener and he had a third-down tackle for loss, two quarterback pressures and a third-down sack of Rex Grossman in the Chargers' 14-3 victory. It was the start of a storied career and the five-time All-Pro, in a contract season, still is going strong in his ninth year.
Meanwhile, the Bears long have been without the three players they drafted with picks in the trade — defensive end Dan Bazuin, running back Garrett Wolfe and safety Kevin Payne. But their latest pickup at safety, fifth-rounder Adrian Amos, is settling nicely into the defense.
But it's premature to say Amos is a building block for the future, not after you have seen the Bears roll draft picks at safety such as Brock Vereen, Brandon Hardin, Chris Conte, Major Wright, Craig Steltz, Al Afalava and Payne since the Chargers landed Weddle.
Amos is second on the defense with 48 tackles and has two tackles for loss and one pass breakup. He had Teddy Bridgewater dead to rights for a sack on a blitz in the first quarter Sunday before the Vikings quarterback stiff-armed him to the ground and spun out. It was still a victory for the defense as running back Matt Asiata caught a pass for a 4-yard loss.
"I was trying to time it up and decide if I wanted to try to strip the ball or just make the tackle," Amos said of his indecision as he reached Bridgewater unimpeded. "Next time, I just have to make the play. There's nothing to it."
Blitzing is something defensive coordinator Vic Fangio believes Amos can do well. He was sent on two in the game and Amos still is adjusting to the different angles after blitzing plenty in college but generally as a cornerback.
Safety is probably the most difficult position on defense for rookies because of the complex assignments and pass-run responsibilities.
"The cupboard was bare here and we didn't give it to Adrian," Fangio said. "He came in and earned it. He's just getting more comfortable with everything. He's definitely on the upswing."
The next step is for Amos to begin diagnosing plays faster so he is around the ball more but he certainly has answered questions about his tackling ability because he had played mostly cornerback and nickel at Penn State.
"I was all over the place. I wasn't just at safety," Amos said. "My freshman and sophomore year the critique was I was a heavy hitter and I couldn't cover because I wasn't fast enough. Then, it became I was the best cover safety there was and I couldn't tackle. So I really don't listen very much."
Safety is a hard position for teams to fill in the NFL. The emphasis in college has gone so much to dime defenses to account for spread offenses that schools are looking for cornerbacks, cornerbacks and more cornerbacks. As a result, box safeties are harder to find. Moreover, free safeties with range and tackling ability always have been a challenge to locate.
One college scout for an NFC team said he wasn't surprised the Bears were getting production from Amos.
"I liked his size (6-foot, 218 pounds) and really liked how he played corner," he said. "You look at tape from last season and he had a couple of really good games against some good wide receivers. I didn't know if he would able to come downhill and pull the trigger all the time but I knew he could run. He's just scratching the surface. (He) was real value where the Bears got him."
Amos' continued development is the key. Too many of the safeties the Bears found in the later rounds, with the exception of Chris Harris in 2005, were quality threes and fours, meaning they could get the defense through a game and provide spot starts and be solid special teams players. You need those type of players on your roster. But they're not front-end talent and you constantly will be seeking upgrades.
Strong safety Antrel Rolle turns 33 in December so the Bears likely will be in the safety market for next season. If Amos continues to ascend, he can provide some stability that has proven elusive.