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Chicago Bears Up Close: The Cornerbacks

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IJune 9, 2010

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 13: Charles Tillman #33 of the Chicago Bears looks to the sidelines during a time-out against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on December 13, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 21-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears haven’t had a lot of success at the cornerback position in the last few seasons. 

Former Bear Nathan Vasher, once a successful Pro Bowl player, went into a steep decline that ended in his release. Both Zachary Bowman and Charles Tillman are injury prone, and the Bears don’t have any real good depth behind them in case they are out for a long period of time.

Hopefully we don’t find out just how bad things could get this coming season. Chicago definitely needed to add some depth, and hopefully they have enough to overcome any issues they might have should Bowman and/or Tillman go down with an injury.

Tillman had an up-and-down season in 2009.  He ended up playing in a total of 15 games, starting all of them, and recorded a total of 77 tackles with 65 solo and 12 assisted.  He had seven passes defended with two interceptions (with 35 return yards) and one score and forced six fumbles.

When healthy, Tillman is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, and he's a turnover-creating machine when he’s on.  Look for him to be a big part of the defense in 2010 and quite possibly make his first Pro Bowl appearance.

Bowman, like Tillman, has had his share of injury problems during his short career with the Bears.  After missing most of his first season with the team and most of training camp last summer, Bowman played in all 16 games, starting 12.  He recorded 66 tackles with 59 solo and seven assisted.  He had ten passes defended, six interceptions and one forced fumble. 

The Bears need Bowman to be healthy this season, as well as take a step forward.  If he does stay healthy, he should be able to move to the next step and be an even better cornerback than before, especially if the Bears get the kind of pass rush going that they expect.

Bowman (and the other members of the secondary) will only benefit from this.

Corey Graham has been a steady and somewhat reliable backup for them since coming to the Bears, and he's a valuable part of the special teams unit for the Bears.  In 2009, Graham played in all 16 games for the Bears and started one.  He recorded 35 tackles with 31 solo and four assisted.  He also had one pass defended.

Providing that one of the young undrafted free agents doesn’t outdo him in camp, and thanks to his value as a special teams player, Graham should be able to stick with the Bears in 2010 and continue to be a valuable contributor and backup.

D.J. Moore, drafted in the 2009, didn’t see too much of the field, and will have to fight for a chance to stick with the Bears in 2010.  Altogether, Moore participated in three games in 2009, but started none and didn’t have any measurable statistics. 

Moore is an undersized corner that may not fit well with the Bears' need for physical corners that can play the run well.  He needs to start making a name for himself on special teams in order to make the roster, and then he can build on that.  His draft status may be enough to keep him on the roster for at least the 2010 season depending on how some of the other players at the position do in training camp.

Tim Jennings was an offseason acquisition by the Bears in hopes of finding someone to provide some depth.  In 2009, Jennings played for the Indianapolis Colts, where he played in 15 games with five starts.  He had 57 tackles with 44 solo and 13 assisted.  He also had ten passes defended with two interceptions. 

Jennings was a pretty productive player before arriving in Chicago, and there is no reason to think that he won't be in the mix for a roster spot and perhaps contend with Bowman for a shot at the starting spot opposite Tillman.  Jennings has some positives that should make him hard to cut at the end of training camp, so look for him to be on the roster throughout 2010 with the possibility to start in case of an injury to either Bowman or Tillman.

Josh Moore, a fifth-round draft pick in this year’s draft, has shown some decent skill and ability during the Bears' first offseason workouts, and members of the coaching staff feel that he could make an impact on the team as early as this year.

Moore will surely start off on special teams for the Bears, but can be ready in case of an injury to one of the starters or backups. But don’t look for anything big out of Moore this coming season.

Woodny Turenne was in training camp for the Bears last summer but was cut before the final roster was set.  The Bears really liked what they saw in Turenne, so they brought him back to compete again this season.  With the reduced depth that the Bears have at the cornerback position, Turenne may be able to find himself a spot on the active roster heading into the 2010 season if he can continue the kind of play he exhibited during training camp last summer.

Cornelius Brown is an undrafted rookie out of Texas El-Paso and was brought in by the Bears to help provide cornerback competition.  While he is a long shot to make the final roster, Brown can help compete with some of the guys at the bottom of the depth chart and push them to make them better.

And who knows? Maybe Brown will shine and end up landing a starting spot at the end of training camp.

When you look at this group, the first thing that you see is a lack of depth, but that fear may go away the more we see out of Jennings and Graham as training camp goes on.  If the Bears lose one player out of the top four on the depth chart (Tillman, Bowman, Graham and Jennings), then the secondary will be in a lot of trouble.

Chicago may want to address this position with a higher draft pick in 2011. But for now, they will have to make do with what they have and just cross their fingers for an injury-free season at cornerback.

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