With Hayden out, Bears turn to Frey in slot

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Veteran Kelvin Hayden's week-to-week hamstring injury has opened the door for last year's sixth-round draft pick Isaiah Frey to move up the depth chart and play nickel back with the Chicago Bears' first-team defense until further notice.

"It's a good opportunity, but Kelvin's the starting nickel and I'm just taking his place right now," Frey said. "Hopefully he can get healthy, so we're still a very good team with both of us out there."

On Monday, Frey intercepted quarterback Jay Cutler when a receiver fell down, and then nearly picked off another ball later in the workout when he shot up field and broke up a Cutler swing pass headed toward the flat.

"I felt good," Frey said. "I just made the plays I was supposed to make. The star of the defense is the defense, so I'm just making the plays I'm supposed to.

"It seems like the ball is kind of a magnet towards me right now. I've just got to keep making the plays."

Frey had a decent preseason last summer as a rookie coming out of Nevada, but failed to earn a spot on the 53-man roster and landed on the Bears practice squad for the entire regular season. However, Frey made gains in the offseason program when he caught the eye of first-year Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

"I like him," Tucker said. "I'm pulling for him because every day he comes out with a great attitude. He's got a smile on his face. He's not playing cautious. He's looking to make plays. He's doing what he's coached to do. That's what you're looking for out of young players. He's a great young man, and we're just really excited about the progress he's been making out here on a day-to-day basis."

Frey seems to have a legitimate shot to make the team, depending on how many defensive backs the Bears decide to keep. If the club breaks camp with six cornerbacks, Frey and Sherrick McManis appear to be in good shape to crack the 53-man roster. But if for whatever reason the team decides to go with five cornerbacks, and perhaps keep an extra safety, then the battle between Frey and McManis could be an interesting one, considering McManis is viewed as a terrific special teams player.

But given the expiring contracts of veteran cornerbacks Hayden, McManis, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman, the Bears are bound to need some young defensive backs in the future. And that bodes well for Frey and his chances to stick in 2013 and beyond, granted he continues to develop.