If you watched the second Bears game against the Lions you may have noticed that the Lion’s all-star wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, wasn’t doing much, if any, damage to the Bear’s defense. He was held to under 100 yards with Charles Tillman shadowing him and didn’t destroy the Bears like he had done before.
There have been other receivers this season that the Bears cornerback duo of Tillman and Tim Jennings have managed to keep from tearing the Bears apart through the air. These two guys provide solid coverage and have quietly been one of the best duos in the NFL.
Tillman came to the Bears as a second-round draft pick (35th overall) in the 2003 NFL Draft. He played his college football at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he played the left side cornerback position during his time there.
Tillman started for the Bears right away and had a pretty productive season in his first year with the team. His second year saw him struggle through injuries and he didn’t perform as well that season. In his third year with Chicago, Tillman recovered and had a much better campaign the next season.
The Bears have had Tillman covering some of the best receivers in the league since arriving in Chicago and he’s done pretty well covering some of these bigger guys. There have been players like Calvin Johnson and Plaxico Burress that Tillman has defended against that he’s managed to shut down for the most part.
Perhaps where Tillman excels is creating turnovers. He is constantly punching at the ball when he’s coming in for the tackle (he thinks turnover first, tackle second might seem risky but it works well for him) and leads all cornerbacks in turnovers forced since he came into the league. Some of his turnovers have come at good times for the Bears.
Tillman has deserved to go Pro Bowl for the past three or four seasons and is making a case for it this year. He’s been a good shut-down corner for the Bears and is having a solid season this year.
Tim Jennings came to the Bears last year as a free agent after having played with the Indianapolis Colts. Jennings came into the league as a second-round draft pick in the 2006 NFL draft out of the University of Georgia. He was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts and he played several games for the Colts during his time there.
The Colts let Jennings go as a free agent last offseason and the Bears picked him up figuring that he could be a strong backup at the position for them. With Tillman and Zackary Bowman starting, the Bears figured that Jennings could sit back and watch.
But after Bowman failed to support the run well, the Bears inserted Jennings in the lineup and never looked back.
Jennings did have his faults last year and allowed some passes to be completed that hurt the Bears (especially in the NFC Championship game against the Packers) but this year he’s managed to lock down opponents and play very well.
And even though he’s just 5'8", 187 lbs., he plays like a safety. He’s solid against the run and can hold his own against bigger receivers.
The Bears are lucky to have two players like Jennings and Tillman on the team. Granted, they have their struggles (the Chargers game wasn’t one of Tillman’s best) but they get the job done and are a big reason why the Bears have had some nice success defending against opponents' passing games this season.