LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Perhaps he can truly play, but a couple of early reviews concerning new Chicago Bears safety M.D. Jennings don’t inspire much confidence in him becoming an impact contributor in 2014.
Jennings, 25, started all 16 games last season at safety for the Packers but never produced a turnover, despite contributing 74 tackles. Still, Jennings wasn't a priority for the Packers in free agency, as the club wanted to upgrade at that position and opted not to extend a tender offer to the restricted free agent.
Keep in mind Jennings started in Green Bay’s last 26 games. According to ESPN NFL Nation Packers reporter Rob Demovsky, the club had hoped to replace Jennings last season but didn't possess any better options on the roster.
One personnel director called Chicago’s acquisition of Jennings, “probably nothing more than a depth signing,” adding that if Green Bay “thought he could play, they wouldn't have let him go.” Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spoke to NFL scouts about some of Green Bay’s free agents. Here’s what one had to say about Jennings:
“Maybe somebody would [sign] him just to see what he could do. But it’s not like he’s played very well. I’d take a look at him because I think he’s athletic enough. I’m just not sure why it doesn’t always click. He’s definitely that [small]. I don’t think anybody takes a shot at him. He doesn’t run well enough. It’s right of first refusal at best [in terms of a potential tender offer]. He’s a backup player that got forced into a starting situation. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you got him as a good backup you’re happy with that. I see a backup talent despite his starting experience.”
Perhaps that’s why the Bears brought in Jennings: to see what he could do, and at worst, use him as a backup safety and special-teams contributor although initially he’ll compete for a starting job.
Jennings came into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Arkansas State and has posted 133 career tackles, an interception and three pass breakups.