Chicago Sun-Times

CB Tim Jennings responding to Bears' challenge

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Bears cornerback Tim Jennings is used to fighting for his job, but he'll have to fight a little bit harder to keep it this season.

Jennings has been productive in two seasons with the Bears -- beating out Zack Bowman in 2010 and winning the job in training camp in 2011. He is Lovie Smith's kind of tackler and has recovery speed to make up for most of his mistakes. But he struggled late in the season when the Bears needed the defense to carry the team after Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb -- Bowman started in Week 16 against the Packers. And Jennings' inability to capitalize on interception opportunities (he has three picks in two seasons) only made him more of a target for an upgrade for 2012.

It's still Jennings' job to win, but he'll have to beat out more than Bowman this time. The Bears added veterans Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite in the offseason and drafted two other cornerbacks who probably will be special-teams players but can't be counted out: Isaiah Frey of Nevada in the sixth round and Greg McCoy of Texas Christian in the seventh.

"It's going to be real competitive,'' Jennings said after the Bears' practice Wednesday at Halas Hall. ''I know some of these guys, I know them pretty well, and I got a chance to watch them and see what they can bring to the game.

Jennings, a good team player, seems to understand that as an undersized cornerback -- he's 5-8, 185 -- he needs competition to be as good as he can be, even if it puts his starting job at risk. After getting benched against the Packers last year, he started in the finale against the Vikings and had an interception, eight tackles, a tackle-for-loss and a pass-breakup in the Bears' 17-13 victory at the Metrodome.

''Overall we've made a great improvement in the secondary, whether I'm out there or not,'' said Jennings, 28, a second-round draft pick by the Indianpolis Colts in 2006. ''It's just to get me to continue to work on some of the things that I need to work on. It's going to be a competitive camp.

''There's a lot of talent. It's just going to have to make me step up my game a little bit more and get me to go out there and continue to work hard and get better at some things."

Little if anything that happens at an ''organized team activity'' (OTA) is telltale. But it's worth noting that Jennings dropped one interception on a pass from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall on Wednesday, then got one later in the practice. The Bears trying to upgrade their defense a little less subtly than their offense, which means holdover players just have to play better than they did in 2011. Those who ''make plays,'' which in Smith's defense means creating turnovers, are likely to win out.

"We haven't really made any really changes on defense,'' Jennings said. ''We just have to go out there and do our job a little bit better and rely on the guy next to you just to step up a little bit. It starts with myself and every guy is going to take accountability.''

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Tim Jennings play was a little erratic last season, but he is a good fit in the cover-2 scheme. I see Jonathan Wilhite got some time with the ones. I know rookie Isaiah Frey hasn't fared so well during the OTA's, but I still like his potential and it is still early. Frey has a little more size than Jennings at 5-11 and long arms, 31 inch. Frey led the WAC in pass breakups in 2011 with 21 and had 5 ints. He could be one to watch once he gets the Bears scheme down.

The secondary will go as the defensive front goes. Meaning, improved play up front will make the secondary better. Young players like rookie first rounder Shea McCellin, Henry Melton, and Stephen Paea have to come to play this year and bring a consistent pass rush, this will be the make or break for the defense GO BEARS!!

Erratic? I thought he was consistent...consistently mediocre. Part of that is related to technique, where we are one of the only Cover 2 teams that doesn't actually jam the receivers at the line. This press/bail technique makes it very difficult for the corners to be in a position to make a play on the ball. But there were a lot of bad plays made by the corners, both Jennings and Tillman. My concern about Jennings is that even though he has recovery speed, he isn't tall enough to make plays in a trail position. Once he gets behind the receiver, it's game over, and the completion is a given.

We need someone with height, long arms AND the recovery speed to get back in a position to make a play. Is Frey that type of guy? Maybe in a year or two. Right now, our best chance is to have Hayden win the job across from Tillman. And for the love of god, will someone teach Tillman how to stay over his feet so he stops slipping and falling on every break on the ball??? I can't keep watching that and hearing how great he is as a corner. Great corners like Champ Bailey don't let their guys catch the ball and then hope for the strip. Good corners don't even do that. The Bears corners are what they have always been...Average at best.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on June 7, 2012 7:51 AM.

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