Notebook: Smith confident in secondary

HC Lovie Smith (Jerry Lai/USP)

Despite his team finishing 2011 ranked 28th versus the pass, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith isn't worried about his secondary this year. We also discuss Chris Conte, Patrick Mannelly and more.

--The Chicago Bears finished 28th in passing yards allowed last season, permitting an average of 254.1 yards per game, more than all but four teams in the league. Still, coach Lovie Smith took exception to an inference that the secondary struggled in 2011.

"I don't see it like that," he said. "A few games, maybe you have a little bit of trouble with the pass. I think we played the pass fairly well."

Cornerback Charles Tillman made his first Pro Bowl, but no one else in the Bears' secondary stood out and, as usual, the safety position was a revolving door. Eight different starting combinations were utilized, a trend that has become the norm throughout Smith's eight seasons in Chicago.

--Even as a rookie without the benefit of an offseason last year, third-round pick Chris Conte started nine games at safety. He's far more comfortable now with a year in the system.

"It's crazy," he said. "I've been living out here for a year. I know this place. Coming to Bourbonnais (last July) I had never even seen Illinois before. But it was a fun experience. It's just nice being able to feel much more comfortable, knowing the guys, knowing what to expect."

--Just six months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL, long snapper Patrick Mannelly appears way ahead of schedule as he prepares for his 15th NFL season.

"It's real good to see him back," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "He got back the last part of OTAs. We've had him the whole minicamp. He looks real good. He's running down on punts and protecting. He's in all the team drills."

--With more talent and depth at the quarterback position (Jay Cutler, Jason Campbell and Josh McCown) than at any time in recent memory, coach Lovie Smith expects a more productive offense than last year's group, which was 17th in scoring.

"I feel like we're going to be able to put more points on the board, which we will have to do," Smith said. "The team that led the league (the Packers) averaged 35 points a game last year, and we were about at 22. We have to improve on that."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like this is a pretty good football team on paper before we had a chance to get on the football field to start offseason work, and most of the stuff we wanted to get accomplished I feel like we have." --Lovie Smith at the conclusion of veteran minicamp.


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