Tim Jennings continues to stand tall at cornerback
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org August 1, 2012 9:04PM
BOURBONNAIS — Another year, another challenge for Tim Jennings.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Bears 5-8 starting cornerback is used to being a target. Although he plays bigger than he is, he can’t do so on every play, and his mistakes are magnified. With NFL cornerbacks, the smaller they are, the easier they are to find when things go wrong.
Jennings beat out Zack Bowman for the starting job the last two years. This year, veteran Kelvin Hayden, the South Sider from Hubbard who played ahead of Jennings with the Indianapolis Colts from 2005 to ’08, is his main competition. Though it’s early, Jennings hasn’t budged.
While he would love to have a secure job, he knows he needs the competition.
‘‘That’s why I’ve been in the league going on my seventh year,’’ said Jennings, a second-round pick by the Colts in 2006.
‘‘It’s fun for those guys who know they don’t have to worry about it too much and have smooth sailing throughout camp. But it helps me to have that mentality that I have to compete and get better every year because I’m one of those guys that has to work extra hard. I’m not a prototype corner — 6-1, 200 pounds. I have to compete with bigger, tougher, faster receivers. I need that kind of mentality every year.’’
Jennings has three interceptions in 30 starts for the Bears, a subpar total on a defense that thrives on takeaways. But coach Lovie Smith is a big supporter.
‘‘We can sure live with what Tim gave us last year,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Tim played good football. He had an outstanding spring. Charles [Tillman] and Tim are our starters, and Kelvin is our third corner. We have a good combination there.’’
Urlacher sits out
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher sat out practice Wednesday with a sore knee. Nick Roach played the middle, and newcomer Geno Hayes replaced Roach at strong-side linebacker for much of the first-team work.
‘‘Guys had to push through today,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We’ve got a couple of bumps and bruises. But we should be OK.’’
Paea making a move?
Second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea continues to make progress, according to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
‘‘He’s coming,’’ Marinelli said. ‘‘I’m very pleased with all of his work — at the nose, the [three-technique] and the nickel. He shows tremendous skill. Great pad level. He’s healthy. When he’s out there, you can feel him.’’
Among the rookies who have impressed early in camp are safety Brandon Hardin and cornerbacks Greg McCoy and Isaiah Frey. Hardin and McCoy had interceptions of Jason Campbell with the second team Wednesday.