Chicago Bears Season-End Review, Part VIII: The Cornerbacks

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Chicago Bears Season-End Review, Part VIII: The Cornerbacks
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There were many that felt that the Bears secondary was going to be a huge weak spot on the team in 2010.  Beyond cornerback Charles Tillman, there was no other real true and tested talent.

It was thought that the Bears would struggle in the secondary.  But, an offseason free agent acquisition in Tim Jennings, a former starter with the Indianapolis Colts, helped make the secondary respectable and helped to keep the Bears defense hard to beat.

The Bears could always use some help in their secondary, and they may take a look at a few different options in the draft, but not until the later rounds.  The coaching staff look to get through next season with the same guys they had this season (Tillman and Jennings), and hope that they end up playing as well or better than they did in 2010.

The following is a look at the players that the Bears had at the cornerback position during the 2010 season.  This includes a look back at how well they did in 2010, where they look going into the offseason, and where they stand heading into 2011.

Zack Bowman-Bowman started out the season as the Bears starter opposite Tillman, but after a breakdown in the Bears' first game against the Packers, he was replaced and never saw time as a starter (he was replaced by Tim Jennings).  He played in 13 games with three starts and had 32 total tackles—28 solo and four assisted.  He had one forced fumble as well.

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Bowman can provide the Bears with some decent depth, but he’s probably not going to be a starter any longer unless he shows the coaching staff something in training camp that he’s been holding back.  He is somewhat of a liability against the run and doesn’t cover well.  He should remain on the roster in 2011 unless the Bears bring in some additional depth at the position. Should someone from that group stand out, Bowman could be headed out of Chicago, but the Bears will probably give him another shot in 2011.

Corey Graham-Graham is much better known for his play on special teams than anything else, and he will be covered in the special teams review.

Tim Jennings-Jennings was a pleasant surprise for the Bears in 2010.  Chicago acquired him as a free agent (he was formerly with the Indianapolis Colts), and many people thought he wasn’t going to amount much due to his size.  By the third game of the season, Jennings had made his way into the lineup full time (replacing Bowman), and he started from the fourth game on, never looking back. 

On one occasion later in the season, Jennings was benched because of some problems he had in coverage. But he came back, playing well at the end of the season and in the playoffs, and cementing himself as the starter heading into the 2011 season.

Jennings played in 16 games for the Bears in 2010 with 13 starts.  He had 56 total tackles with 41 solo and 15 assisted.  He defended seven passes, had one interception (which he returned for 39 yards), and had one forced fumble on the season.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

As mentioned, it was thought that his size would be a problem, but he didn’t seem to struggle a lot covering taller wide receivers.  He did struggle in coverage at times, especially when it came coverage responsibilities (there were a couple notable breakdowns—one coming in their first game against the Vikings and another coming in the NFC Championship Game), but overall he did a nice job. Unfortunately, as in the case of the NFC Championship game, he occasionally faltered when it counted.

He will start training camp as the starter next season, and, unless the Bears bring in some cornerbacks to challenge him, he will probably remain the starter in 2011.

D.J. Moore-Moore had a coming out party last year as the Bears nickelback, and had a pretty good showing at critical times throughout the season.  The biggest knock on him, coming into the NFL, was his size, leaving some to wonder why Chicago even made the pick.

After a year of sitting down and watching, head coach Lovie Smith decided to give Moore a shot at the nickelback position, and it worked out pretty well for the most part. 

He played in 16 games with no starts.  He recorded 42 total tackles with 37 solo and five assisted.  He had one sack and eight passes defended, with four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and one forced fumble.

Leon Halip/Getty Images

Moore was pretty productive as the nickelback, and should see some time there again next season, unless Chicago decides to bring in some additional talent at the position.  He was effective for a majority of the time last season, despite doubts about his ability to cover bigger wide receivers.  There were a couple times where he was unable to bring down the ball carrier because of his size, but overall he made plays when he had to and played pretty well.

The Bears will give Moore another shot at the starting nickelback position in training camp this summer, and, depending on who else he goes up against, it looks like his nickel job should be safe in 2011.

Joshua Moore-Picked in the 2010 NFL Draft, Moore didn’t see much action in 2010. The Bears secondary remained healthy and played well, so his opportunity never came.  Overall, Moore played in just three games with no starts, netting one solo tackle. 

The Bears will give him a shot at making a bigger impact on defense during training camp this season, but it appears as if he will remain a backup and a special teams player for at least another season.

Moore will stick with the team in 2011 as a backup and may see more action on defense if he can prove (in training camp) that he’s worth putting on the field.

Charles Tillman-It makes many people wonder why Tillman hasn’t been selected to the Pro Bowl yet.  He plays solid almost all of the time, and supports the run very well.  He’s not afraid to stick his nose in and try to strip the ball, and his health is no longer a concern.

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Tillman isn’t a true “shutdown” corner like the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis and Oakland’s Nnamdi Asomugha, but he’s a solid performer and one that has helped make the Bears' secondary solid, especially in 2010.

Tillman played in and started in all 16 games for the Bears in 2010.  He recorded a total of 82 tackles, with 71 solo and 11 assisted.  He had 14 passes defended, five interceptions and three forced fumbles.

He’s still a viable option as a cornerback, but he’s getting older and the Bears may want to start thinking about a replacement for him in the future.  For now, he’s still effective and will be an important part of their defense for at least the next couple of seasons.

The big question about this unit is whether or not they need to add some depth—the answer is yes.  Chicago needs to go out and find some depth for the position to cover themselves in case of injuries.

The outlook for Chicago’s cornerbacks in 2011 is good, but there are still some concerns.  Contracts for some of the guys are either at an end (Graham), or will come to an end shortly (Tillman). Chicago either needs to extend those deals or start bringing in other talent.  The also cannot afford to have an injury to any starter in the secondary because that could weaken the entire defense severely.

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