Charles Tillman: Chicago Bears Cornerback Is a Legitimate MVP Candidate

William SmithCorrespondent INovember 5, 2012

Tillman has forced 36 fumbles in his 10-year career.
Tillman has forced 36 fumbles in his 10-year career.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

As good as the Chicago Bears defense has been as a collective unit, Charles Tillman deserves immense credit for his play and deserves consideration for the AP NFL MVP Award.

The NFC's defensive player of the month in October, the 31-year-old cornerback has been the key to this Bears defense.

Guys like Lance Briggs (48 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 TDs) and Tim Jennings (league-leading 6 INTs) deserve a lot of credit for their play, but Tillman has been the true spark plug for a defense that has created an absurd 28 takeaways in its first eight games.

In Week 9 against Tennessee, Tillman forced four fumbles on his own. In Week 7 against Detroit, he shut down the NFL's best receiver in Detroit's Calvin Johnson. 

Most importantly, he has made impact plays at key times in games for the 7-1 Bears. Whether it is a key pass break-up or punching the ball from a receiver's grasp even when they know it's coming, Tillman's value has never been higher in his 10th season with Chicago.

For example, Tillman scored on a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown in Jacksonville in Week 5. At that point in the game, the Bears only led 6-3 in the third quarter and were sputtering on offense, making Tillman's play the turning point in what turned out to be a 41-3 rout.

With a league-best seven forced fumbles in the first half of the season, he is on pace to shatter Osi Umeniyora's record of 10 set in 2010. 

Lawrence Taylor was the last defensive player to win the award with a monstrous 20.5 sacks in the 1986 season. 

Since then, the award has been dominated by running backs and quarterbacks. 

Quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are obvious candidates to take home the award after their strong starts to the season. They have the ball in their hands all the time and seem to have the most impact on the outcome of games for their teams. 

However, Tillman, along with Texans defensive end J.J. Watt,  have to be up for consideration because they have made such a profound impact for their teams

The NFL does have a Defensive MVP Award, much like baseball has a separate award with the Cy Young Award for pitchers, making it more unlikely for Tillman to capture the award.

Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander proved it was possible in 2011 when he captured both. Tillman may need an even more beastly second half than his first half to have any chance of capturing the NFL MVP.

Tillman is peaking when nobody expected him to and should garner some MVP buzz with the likes of Ryan and Manning for his outstanding play.