Chicago Sun-Times

Bears' CB Tillman on the mend from shoulder surgery

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If Charles Tillman didn't quite look himself at times last season, it's because he wasn't.

The Bears' left cornerback underwent surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday to repair torn ligaments he suffered in a Sept. 28 collision with Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek. Tillman wound up injuring his left shoulder two weeks later at Atlanta and missed the following game against Minnesota. The right shoulder was the issue and he played through pain for the final 11 games with the knowledge he needed surgery.

Tillman is expected to make a full return but this is not the first time he has had shoulder issues. Tillman underwent surgery on one of his shoulders following the 2005 season when he was suffering from frequent subluxations. He's known as a physical corner and has missed five games over the last four seasons. Provided he comes back 100 percent, it shouldn't be an issue.

An issue that doesn't seem to want to go away is the idea of moving him to free safety, something he addressed in the story. The only problem with that is in filling one hole on the defense it creates another, a new hole that could be even bigger. For the issues the Bears have right now without a free safety--do they win Super Bowl XLI with better safety play?--Tillman is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFC, a big, physical player who they need for matchups against top wideouts.

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16 Comments

What is going on with Kevin Jones? Will he reappear now with the hiring of the former Lions head coach?

Get well soon Charles. It is tough being a cover corner in a cover-2 defense with no pass rush. Way too much pressure was put on the secondary this season. Have a peaceful off-season.

I don't like the idea of moving Charles Tillman to safety either, maybe down the line, but as of right now with Tillmans size, he matches up to well with the leagues bigger receivers, especially when he is healthy. Good corners are hard to come by, and Charles Tillman is a good corner, heck, Tillman is even a good corner with a bum shoulder, and theres not to many other corners out there that can play like Tillman did with a bad shoulder. I like the idea better of Charles Tillman and Corey Graham lined up at corner, and the Bears getting a free safety through the draft, Missouri safety William Moore in the 1st or Rashad Johnson of Alabama in the 2nd. GO BEARS!!

He was playing like he was on his way to the pro-bowl early in the season (minus that personal foul penalty), forcing turnovers left and right. Hope he comes back stronger than ever.

Kevin, I second that. Personally I would love to see Danieal Manning developed into a FS like he should have been. He's the best athlete on the team, hands down, and matches incredible speed with bruising tackles (when he wants to and isn't trying to strip the ball). Man oh man, if only he had the proper coaching and learned how to make better decisions such as when to support the run.

If he was taught properly, there wouldn't be a question at safety.

As for the return game, how great would it be to see the old Hester back where he belongs? Manning could probably still do some returns if he needed to, and there's always Rashied Davis who has the ability to make long returns.

The nickel spot? Probably Vasher if he stays on the team and works out his issues. Or Zack Bowman.

For now Tillman is still a very good corner, although at times he did not seem to stick as close to the wideouts as in the past, the injury may have played a huge part. Tillman at safety though one day would probably be all pro, maybe like Reed from Baltimore.

With D Manning as nickle, he was getting damn good at nickle until they changed that up in the HOuston game and placed him back in safety where he did make coverage errors, one leading to a touchdown.
D Manning is also so good at kickoff duty, I say keep him at the nickle and bring in a safety through the draft or free agency. Kevin the two you suggest seem the best at either the 1st or 2nd round.

As for Vasher, for sure he has or should have lost his starting position to Graham. Or you could keep Vasher as one CB and start Graham in Tillman's other position, move Tillman to free safety, bring in a rookie to train and develop, with Payne at Strong Safety and D manning as nickle.

That final paragraph is the ticket to a stellar pass Defense.

Go Bears!!!

Shout out to Tillman for gutting out a decent season with the injuries he played with, I think it shows how much he cares about winning and showing leadership on the field. Heal up quick and help the team move forward next season. I like Bowman, he only played in the one game but showed he has heart which a corner should have, I think we are better off in that position than most people think, that's why I'd consider trading Vasher to get a pick to use for additional help on the offense or defensive lines, he should bring a first day selection for sure based on his age, history, and reasonable contract.
Kevin A...what do you think of these guys at safety if we can't get your man Moore from Missou....Sean Smith -Utah or Mike Hamlin-Clemson, both show well on most analist guides I've seen to date?

Tillman needs to stay where he is at CB. Manning needs to be our #1 Free Safety and leave him there. As for Vasher hopefully he can play to the level he was at 2 years ago and put Graham in the nickel spot. I sure hope they give Zach Bowman a good look at CB especially after that great game he played against Minn, which was his only game.

GO BEARS.

I hope u get back to the old Peanut tillman.If lovie dosent play the corners off the ball like they did all last yr he'll do good.We have great secondary press the WR's stop those 5 yr passes JEES!!

Peanut obviously was playing hurt most of the year, which is admirable, but at the same time, what does that say about our team depth that a one-armed starter is better than what's behind him?

While physically, Tillman is a great candidate for the free safety position, I see some issues with his style of play that would make that transition a problem. He is aggressive in reading and reacting, but doesn't always get it right. Take the Berrian touchdown as an example. Tillman guessed and went for the place he thought the ball was going, and left his man wide open down the sideline for a 90+ yard touchdown. He is an instinctive player, and his discipline is sometimes lacking as far as being where he is supposed to be. As a corner, that works well as he is responsible for the flat, where he can always come up and tackle the receiver on dump passes, but when he is responsible for deep 1/2, or deep 1/3, those types of gambles and guesses will get you burned. He will make his share of big plays doing this, but he will also be matched by big plays he gives up.

With Graham, Tillman, and Bowman being the top 3 CBs next year (if Vasher is let go or demoted to nickel back), we will be in a much better position to press and bump the receivers, rather than give them a 10 yard head start before they make their cut. Manning and Payne would make a solid duo as the safeties, as long as they move them back and forth as far as who is strong and who is free. We became too predictable in our safety alignment in 2007 and 2008. Part of that was we had guys like McGowan and Archuleta playing the position, who are only capable of being strong safeties. Manning and Payne can both support the run, and both have adequate coverage skills. Manning may be our best blitzer on the team, and Payne is capable of being a very good fumble generator.

By mixing it up, you can make the QB have to make a guess on which is which, and what they are going to do. On some plays, bring Manning into the box, and you have the option of blitzing him off the edge, dropping him to the flat zone (the CB on that side then becomes deep 1/2 responsible, and bails before the snap), or playing man coverage on the tight end. You do the same thing with Payne, and interchange them all game long. You can even show one in the box, and blitz the other one in man coverage.

Good safety play is predicated on the inability of the offense to know where they will be during the play. Payne and Manning are versatile enough to be anywhere on the field, and play the run or pass. Hoke has his work cut out for him, but he has the raw material to work with. If you like what Steltz brings to the table, you bring him in for the 3 safety package, and put Manning on the corner, pulling Graham in heavy run tendency packages...

We could do interesting things with this, and still leave our best cover guy where he belongs...on the outside. Get well Peanut!

Chitownbear, Sean Smith and Mike Hamlin are both intriguing prospects, both have nice size at 6-3, here's my only problem with both of them. Sean Smith played mostly corner in college, and scouts think with his size [6-3] he may be better suited at safety. Not saying he couldn't play the position [free safety] at the next level, its just that he may be a season away from being NFL ready, as far as playing safety. I think Chicago needs someone more NFL ready. Mike Hamlin had 91 tackles and 6 ints, but he is a strong safety, and most scouts feel strong safety might be his best position at the next level, Chicago needs a free safety.

If Chicago doesn't get Missouri free safety William Moore in the first, I'd like to see them use their 2nd rounder on Alabama free safety Rashad Johnson. Johnson, like Moore, is a ballhawk. As a senior Johnson had 5 ints, two of them were pick 6's, and on top of all this, Johnson had 11 pass breakups. Johnson is no fluke either, as a junior, Johnson had 6 ints, and 8 pass breakups, thats impressive. Oh yeah, Johnson did all this in the SEC, where he was an All SEC first-teamer, in the SEC its all about speed speed and more speed, so chances are, Johnson should be able to hang at the next level. What sold me on Johnson the most, aside from his big play ability, was what his coach said about him. Nick Saban said, "Johnson is one of the smartest football players he's ever coached. Johnson knows every defense for every formation." One of the keys to playing free safety is knowing the game, and being able to line the rest of the secondary up against different formations, like Mike Brown did for all these years. Chicago should take a long look at Johnson. I also like Western Michigans Louis Delmas, Delmas had 100 tckls with four ints this season, scouts say on top of his ability to play the ball, Delmas is a fierce hitter.

But in the end, who knows, Angelo might go the free agent route in getting a safety, or he might have a guy we never heard of lined up later on in the draft. The good thing is Angelo has a pretty good history drafting safeties GO BEARS!!

Saftie Play is more important in the Tampa two than Corner play. They are responsible for more and have to cover more territory. Corners in the Cover two need to be good at jamming and pushing a guy too the outside over a short distance. Safties cover more of the field and the strong saftie does the majority of the blitzing. I f a corner goes down in the Cover 2 we have seen guys step in time and time again and fill in well. When your stud saftie goes down, the system breaks down. Both safties in the Tampa 2 need to be fast ball hawks who can play the run. If Vash returns to form, you have him and Graham, push Tillman over too Free saftie were he belongs. Look how Tillman compares to John Lynch in style of play.

A great DLine and Saftie play make corners look good in the T2. But safties are moe important to it's success. Notice the large drop off in play for corners when Mike Brown, Bob Sanders, and John Lynch would miss games.

I'm almost relieved to hear Peanut is having surgery. He just did not have a good year. It's good to know that at least there was a reason.

Tillman has enough size, aggression and talent he could probably play about anywhere in the secondary, but if I have a good corner it would take a lot of convincing to get me to move him somewhere else.

My guess is that Mike is right. They are going to try to put Manning back at safety. If you read between the lines of all that personal coaching he got from Lovie, you can see it coming. With the kind of talent Manning has, I have to risk screwing up the kickoff return job again for a shot at a good full-time safety. You could see him really improving at nickle this year,.....finally. If he ever gets "it", he has the athletic ability to be an Ed Reed type safety. Ability doesn't mean he will ever be that good, but at least he does have the ability.

Of course Reed still returns kicks.

Creighton:

Could not agree with you more, Tillman would be a star at free safety with Graham and Vasher at each corner. D Manning has played the FS position, struggled and was put down to other positions, he was beaten at Houston when Tillman thought he had coverage deep and did not on Andre Johnson. D Manning is outstanding as the nickle back and with kick returning duties, I believe that would be where he is most valuable to the team. Payne is pure and simple a hitter and could be a great strong safety!! Bowman floats between injuries to nickle and both corners. Draft a potentially great free safety as suggested by Kevin from Alabama, Missouri or Utah but from round 2 or later. We need DL or OL at #1 pick

Thanks for the input Kevin, you guys have more of a handle on the draft than I do, I can see need watching the games but do not have time to sift through the numerous prospects out there. My concern is both guys you tout are going to be in high demand, Morre may be gone before we get to pick in round ! now that Mays is off the board, and same could be said for Rashad in round 2. Saban says a lot of good things about him, and I think he could do well, my take on smith is he's a hitter with coverage skills, and I think we both know whoever we bring in must be able to make an impact on the field with intimidation and ball-hawking skills....If we don't get those guys by going with a Strongside LB or rush end early, who are some sleepers out there other than the guys I rang up??

Perhaps Tillman can be the FS of the future...but not next year. He's one of the better CB in the league and should stay there. As has been pointed out by Suntimes writers, corners are more valuable than safeties, and Tillman is too valuable at that position. It'll be interesting to see, however, if Vasher will be with the team and if he'll be back to his all-pro level. Whether he is or not, Graham has shown much promise and I believe will be better with experience, and Bowman, McBride, and Hamilton have also all shown flashes of ability to make plays.

Another CB would be nice (and they should try and get one via draft or FA), but it is safety which is severly lacking in the secondary. With all due respect to D. Manning (excellent KO returner and improving nickel), he is NOT the answer at FS. I've watched him since he's been drafted and he's not shown the ability to play that position. He's gifted athletically (which perhaps makes it more infuriating), but his football instincts are highly suspect and he blows coverages with too much frequency. I would venture to guess that the Bears' coaching staff has discussed this as well and so would explain his movement from position to position. They've been trying to find a place for him because he hasn't been able to live up to expectations at FS. I don't think he ever will. Nickel, fine. He's improving. KO, yes. He's one of the best in the league. But please find a FS besides moving Tillman.

Yeah, I do think that Tillman can be a very good safety...All I hope is that things look up for him, after this terrible crappy year he just had!! We'll just see what happens.................

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on January 15, 2009 4:15 AM.

Four Down Territory, Jan. 14: Could Bears go free-agent route for safety? was the previous entry in this blog.

Forte the league's most valuable running back? Orton matches a QB in conference title game is the next entry in this blog.

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