What the Bears' cornerback 'competition' really means

It sounds fair when the Bears claim there’s a positional battle in battle in training camp. But don’t be fooled.

What it really means is the Bears haven’t flat given the starting job to someone, or they aren’t protecting a supposedly fragile player the way they told free-agent quarterbacks they wouldn’t be allowed to compete with Rex Grossman.

So, the Bears declared actual competition this year at cornerback between Zack Bowman and Tim Jennings.

“The best man plays,’’ defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said, and wait, I forgot, there’s a third reason the Bears have a positional battle: The “best man’’ to play corner opposite Charles Tillman probably isn’t on the roster yet.

Bowman can’t stay healthy. Jennings seems to be out of position frequently. Those are the Bears’ choices right now because quality, game-changing corners seemed to go everywhere except Halas Hall.

Starting with Nnamdi Asomugha, nine of the top 50 or so free agents were cornerbacks. Three re-signed with their old teams. Six went to new teams. Nobody new, good or game-changing came to the Bears despite the team’s apparent pile of salary cap space.

This situation isn’t as scary as the offensive line. This position also isn’t as sexy as wide receiver.

Nope, this specific spot won’t seem to mean much until New Orleans’ Lance Moore gets loose for the decisive touchdown because Tillman is covering Marques Colston.

Many NFL teams value cornerbacks more than the Bears do. In coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 base defense, the most important position is the undertackle that Tommie Harris used to dominate. Next comes strong safety, then weakside linebacker. If the undertackle leads pressure from the front four, then the defense has seven men in coverage instead of isolating a corner.

Of course, such regular pressure is more of a concept than a reality, which requires blitzing, which creates holes in the base scheme, which leaves a corner singled up, which leads to extreme pottymouth.

If you collect shutdown corners and big-play corners the way a lot of teams do, you can blitz relentlessly and seemingly without fear. If you’re the Bears, you sort of hold your breath and light candles.

Oh, and you hold an open competition, which is code for “More sacks, Julius.’’


Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 2010 killing of Chicago cop detailed at trial; man claims self-defense

    2010 killing of Chicago cop detailed at trial; man claims self-defense

    The man on trial in the killing of Chicago police Officer Thor Soderberg hated police and surprised the officer as he changed out of his uniform at shift end and placed his duty belt down, a Cook County prosecutor alleged Monday.

  • Aldermen to hold hearing on untested rape kits

    Aldermen to hold hearing on untested rape kits

    Chicago aldermen on Monday called on police officials to provide information on how quickly rape kits are being tested by the state crime lab, part of a largely symbolic effort to determine whether a large backlog is hampering work to apprehend rapists.

  • Alderman's 'Chi-raq' criticism falls flat

    Alderman's 'Chi-raq' criticism falls flat

    A South Side alderman's effort to tweak filmmaker Spike Lee for using "Chi-raq" as the title for a movie about Chicago violence fell flat Monday with his colleagues.

  • ComEd to hold energy fairs to help low-income customers

    ComEd to hold energy fairs to help low-income customers

    Commonwealth Edison will hold energy fairs at satellite locations across the region Monday in order to get money to thousands of people struggling to pay their electricity bills in northern Illinois.

  • PAWS Chicago "Muttshots!"

    PAWS Chicago "Muttshots!"

    These adorable pups are on the loose looking for a place to call home. They have a warrant out for their arrest. Their crime? Being irresistibly cute and cuddly. If you're interested in adopting any of these dogs, please visit www.pawschicago.org for more information.

  • Wabash Lights exceeds Kickstarter goal, hopes to begin test this fall

    Wabash Lights exceeds Kickstarter goal, hopes to begin test this fall

    The designers of an ambitious plan to install colorful LED lights on the underside of the Wabash Avenue "L" tracks raised almost $60,000 in a Kickstarter campaign that will allow them to move forward with a test of the project.