Articles, NFL, News - Written by Blake on Thursday, July 8, 2010 19:35 - 0 Comments
Bears cornerback Corey Graham coming up fast
CHICAGO — A minor discussion percolated around Halas Hall this offseason concerning which Bear was the fastest among the cornerbacks.
Danieal Manning would have been declared the winner, hands down, except the safety/nickel back only had a cameo at corner in the past. Second-year player D.J. Moore received honorable mention because of his quickness but not for his straight-line speed.
Reserve cornerback Corey Graham offered his take.
“If you would have asked me last year, I would have said Zack (Bowman),” Graham said. “But this year, it’s a lot closer. It’s between me and Zack.”
Graham has reason to boast. Like Matt Forte on offense, he raised eyebrows with a little added zip during minicamp and organized team activities. The fourth-year player explained his surge, pointing to a full recovery from an old college injury. Graham broke his left ankle his final season at New Hampshire.
“Last year was the first year that I actually felt good, where my ankle didn’t hurt,” he said. “My rookie year here was terrible. I was playing at like 80, 70 percent.
“So during this offseason, I was really able to do a lot of speed drills and strengthening for my ankle. It actually paid off. I felt like I definitely got a step faster, and now I’m making a lot of plays on the ball.”
The Bears need more playmakers in the secondary after finishing 23rd in interception percentage last season. Graham could solidify himself as the third cornerback — if not the starting nickel back — during training camp. Depth at the position is a concern with starters Charles Tillman and Bowman enduring their share of injuries in previous years.
Although the Bears signed veteran Tim Jennings, drafted Joshua Moore and see promise in Woodny Turenne, Graham impressed enough to end workouts as the primary nickel back while Manning remained at strong safety. Manning could end up at nickel if rookie Major Wright develops quickly. But Graham won’t be an afterthought.
“Corey just had an excellent offseason,” defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said. “He has shown as much improvement, in my opinion, as anybody.”
Graham figured he did enough to catch the coaching staff’s attention two seasons ago, when he started nine games — eight at right cornerback and one at left — with ex-Bear Nathan Vasher and Tillman battling injuries. But after a brief and unsuccessful audition at safety, the only serious look Graham got last season — Hoke’s first — was on special teams.
Graham’s anger was evident in his eyes and body language.
“I wouldn’t say that (the anger) is out yet because still, to this day, I don’t know if there’s a place for me,” he said. “Right now, I’m going back and forth from nickel to corner with the (second team). I can only hope for the best.
“But I feel like this is what they wanted to see all along … me making those plays. Before, they always said I was a great tackler and was physical. So now, to actually bring the play-making ability … you would think I should be somewhere out there.”
(c) 2010, Chicago Tribune.
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