Danieal Manning’s first NFL season was the 2007 season, and the expectations were high. Right away, he was inserted into the Chicago Bears lineup as their starting free safety.
Last season was somewhat different; the Bears limited his use to a kick returner and a nickelback. This season looks like it’ll be different, though. Manning will still return kicks and will still have a role at nickelback, but he’ll also be Chicago’s free safety.
As the Chicago Sun Times put it recently:
“Manning will open training camp in Fridays 3 p.m. practice at free safety, a position he spent exactly zero time at during the offseason program. Kevin Payne will be the starter at strong safety with Craig Steltz challenging him. Manning will slide to the nickel cornerback role he played last season in passing situations. In the nickel package, Steltz will be at free safety.”
Since Steltz is traditionally a strong safety and Danieal Manning is the better athlete, this seems like the right decision on all accounts.
Bears coach Lovie Smith had nothing but good things to share about Manning.
“Danieal is getting more of the concept of this defense and his overall football knowledge has improved a lot, sometimes it takes players a while before they really get it and I think Danieal has gotten it where it all makes sense to him, and thats why were putting him in this role right now.”
Smith acknowledged that some might question the move, feeling that Manning’s been spread too thin at so many positions. However, the Bears coach feels that if anything, this has made Manning a smarter player for it and a more qualified free safety.
Zackary Bowman, in his second year, has secured the starting role across from Nathan Vasher. Bowman won the job over Corey Graham, who will likely back up Manning at free safety.
Lovie Smith said this about Bowman: “Every day it seemed like I was talking about some big play that he was making, and even if it wasnt a big play, he was doing what we were teaching him to do. But thats all without contact and all those things. Now we go to the next phase. But we like what hes done so far.