There has been much ado about how good Bears strong safety Adrian Amos really is. He has gone through the wringer by fans and media. He has been propped up by his player rankings at Pro Football Focus (PFF) and EA Sports’ Madden ’19 (Madden) video game. So where exactly does this polarizing player actually sit? That’s a good question and one that I think is worth exploring.
First things first, let me mention that all of this hand-wringing on either side of this debate is about a 5th-round draft pick. The fact that Amos has been a 3-year starter, who is expected to start again this season, is already a win. Most 5th-round picks don’t amount too much in the NFL, but Amos has had at least two very solid seasons already. The outlier, of course, was the train wreck of a 2016 season.
Part of the reason that we are even having this debate is that we usually only notice a safety if he makes a great play or a terrible one. As is human nature, the negative plays tend to stand out more than the positive ones. The way that PFF grades players is admirable. It is a way for the average fan to gauge how well one player is playing versus another player. However, the grading system is flawed.
The biggest issue that I have with it is that first and foremost, the people who are tracking the players are generally unpaid regular Joe’s. Are these the best judges of what a given player’s assignment is on a given play or whether or not they completed said assignment?
The other problem is the weighting system. Things like interceptions, forced fumbles, touchdowns, and the like are not weighted enough on the positive side of the equation. Conversely, negative plays like giving up a touchdown or missing a tackle, are not necessarily weighted more heavily than say, just giving up a first down reception.
A lot of outlets use PFF ratings as if they are gospel, this includes video games such as Madden. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, since generally speaking, they do a pretty solid job. But in this case, a steady-eddy player like Amos is rewarded for not playing really poorly, but he also isn’t knocked down for not creating turnovers or big plays either. A player like Amos, who is solid-to-good but certainly not great, should have a ceiling on his rating. It should be weighted down to something like 85 instead of 100. But that’s a whole other discussion.
According to PFF, Amos would have been a first-team All-Pro safety, along with the Vikings’ Harrison Smith. Now, I think Amos is a fine player and occasionally flashes being a pretty darn good player, he is nowhere near elite like Smith is. Are you telling me that he is better than the Rams’ Lamarcus Joyner, the Giants’ Landon Collins, or Eric Reid? That’s the whole NFL though, let’s ask a more pointed question: is Adrian Amos the best safety in the NFC North?
Well, he is certainly not better than the aforementioned Smith, who is a premier safety in the NFL and has been for quite some time. So the answer is already no. But what about the top-3? The Lions’ Glover Quin produces more turnovers and had the same amount of tackles as Amos. The Packers‘ Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had 3 interceptions last year, which is 3 times as many as Amos has in his career, while also having 5 more tackles. I think Quin and Clinton-Dix were both on worse defenses than the Bears had last year as well, so their numbers are even more impressive.
One could make a case that the Vikings other safety, Andrew Sendejo, is as good as Amos, but I won’t. Let’s look internally for a moment. Is Eddie Jackson better than Amos? I think he needs to show a little more, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that he will be a better player than Amos, and likely already is. So not only is Amos not the best safety in the division, he might not even be the best safety on the Bears.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying, however, this is not an indictment of Amos as a player. I do think he is an above average strong safety, he just isn’t elite and that’s OK. I expect Amos to once again be a steadying presence in the Bears secondary and a leader. One of the biggest parts of being a strong safety is setting the tone by being a hitter, and Amos has certainly shown the ability to do that. He is also a very good tackler and plays assignment-sound football. These are the “glue guys” on a team.
At the end of the day, Bears general manager Ryan Pace has scored big in the 5th round. Could you upgrade from Amos? Of course, but you can with most players. If what we have seen so far is who Adrian Amos is as a player, I can live with that.
Follow Andrew on Twitter: @BearsLink82 –Feature Photo Credit: Sporting News