Bears training camp snapshot: Cornerbacks

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by BSBEARS, Jul 16, 2014.

  1. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    By Rich Campbell, Tribune reporter
    7:40 p.m. CDT, July 16, 2014

    The Bears' first-round draft selection of Kyle Fuller, along with retaining savvy veterans Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, should go a long way in improving this position in 2014.
    Biggest offseason developments: The Bears re-signed Jennings to a four-year contract worth up to $22.4 million, including $11.8 million guaranteed. Tillman re-signed for a one-year deal that could be worth up to $3.4 million. The club drafted Fuller 14th overall out of Virginia Tech and re-signed Kelvin Hayden and Sherrick McManis to one-year, minimum salary benefit contracts.
    What to like: No matter who the cornerbacks are, they should benefit from the front office's heavy offseason investment in upgrading the defensive line.
    "Jared Allen coming off the end, and we have Lamarr Houston coming off the end, plus the (tackles) that we have in place—we're excited about it," Jennings said.
    Soft run defense — poor tackling and countless lost blocks in the trenches — was the Bears' biggest problem last season. But the pass rush also was inconsistent, and the secondary suffered. The Bears surrendered 6.9 yards per pass attempt, their worst single-season average since 1968.
    The Bears expect free-agent acquisitions Allen and Houston to disrupt opposing quarterbacks' timing and mechanics to reduce cover time for the secondary. And the club retained two of its best playmakers to attack any errant throws.
    Jennings and Tillman won't be mistaken for shutdown corners, but they're among the league's best at creating interceptions by playing with vision. Tillman said Bears cornerbacks still will have that freedom, as coordinator Mel Tucker adjusts the scheme in his second season.
    Jennings, 30, picked off four passes last season and returned two for touchdowns. Tillman, 33, had three interceptions in only eight games. They also are willing, physical tacklers who do their part in run support.
    General manager Phil Emery drafted Fuller over highly regarded safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor. On draft night, Emery praised Fuller's length, athleticism, versatility and toughness.
    When Emery scouted Fuller in college, Fuller's aggressiveness and effort as a tackler in run support were particularly impressive. He's expected to play outside in sub packages.
    By retaining Jennings and Tillman in free agency and adding a top prospect in Fuller, the Bears deepened the position from the top down. Isaiah Frey, who played the slot last season after Hayden suffered a season-ending left hamstring injury in training camp, provides experience off the bench.
    The team regarded McManis as one of its best special teams players last season.
    Preseason questions: Jennings will move to the slot in sub packages as a way to get Fuller on the field without burdening the rookie with the difficulties of playing inside. He played the slot early in his career with the Colts, but the move will require an adjustment that continues in earnest this summer.
    "You have to be able to see a lot more backfield sets," Jennings said. "It's a lot more reads, a lot more keys that you have to get. So I have to get back used to seeing different people, different formations with my eyes and being able to see different things with my keys."
    Fuller's acclimation to the pro game will intensify this summer when players are allowed to hit. The Bears loved his physical play for Virginia Tech, but they couldn't see it during offseason practices without pads.
    Defensive backs coach Jon Hoke noted, "He has excellent movement skills for his position."
    Tillman insists he's healthy, and he did participate in offseason practices. Last year, he missed all or part of 15 of 20 practices from Weeks 2 through 10 because of right knee and groin injuries. Then he missed the final seven games with a torn right triceps. It wouldn't be surprising if the Bears' limited his work in training camp and exhibitions.
    The projection of Hayden as a good bet to make the roster comes with an asterisk: that he's able to run and cut as usual. Hayden, who turns 31 on July 23, says he is fully recovered from the hamstring injury.
    But if his movement is limited, it could increase the opportunity for C.J. Wilson or Demontre Hurst to make the team, especially because either of them could contribute on special teams.
    rcampbell@tribune.com
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Hey what's not to like except maybe that we're getting a little long in the tooth back there?

    Two Pro Bowl CBs who are turnover machines, a versatile vet backup at CB and NB, and a top draft pick to round out the starters and front line backups. We just have to keep 'em all healthy and we should be good. I like that mix almost as much as I do the DLine.
  3. BSBEARS

    BSBEARS Pro-Bowler

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    All good signs, suspect this may be Tillman's last year so expect the Bears to draft another CB early next year. I stated in another post that I suspect 3 high quality CB's will become the norm as teams adjust more to the 3WR sets. Also excited about some of the other young guys and see who we may stash on the PS out of the UDFA's
  4. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    WTF are you still doing up? At least I have an excuse. I'm can't sleep because there's a monster in my closet who won't leave 'til 5:00 AM. :evil:

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