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Alan Ball, Sherrick McManis the main beneficiaries of Tim Jennings' release

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Sherrick McManis has a chance to make a move now that Tim Jennings has been released. Christian K. Lee/AP

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach John Fox had a simple explanation as to why veteran cornerback Tim Jennings is no longer on the team.

“We liked guys better,” Fox said.

At the top of that list is Alan Ball, who appears the frontrunner to start Week 1 at cornerback opposite 2014 first-round pick Kyle Fuller.

The Bears targeted the 6-foot-2 Ball in free agency after he started 22 games the last two years in Jacksonville, but offseason ankle surgery delayed his ascension to the top of the depth chart until now.

“I feel healthy,” Ball said on Monday. “I think coming through minicamps and organized team activities [OTAs] and getting that rest and working me back in through training camp -- getting the confidence back in my body and getting healed and everything getting back together -- has been a process. It’s been a long process that I really wasn’t accustomed to or used to. I think the training staff did a good job with me and we worked together hand-in-hand. It’s all been good. I’m feeling very positive and healthy moving forward.”

Ball thinks he fits the Bears’ new 3-4 defense, a scheme that places a greater emphasis on size at cornerback compared to the team’s zone-heavy system of past years.

“I’m feeling confident. My confidence is growing,” Ball said. “I’m really getting a feel for what Vic [Fangio] is doing and how he’s calling the defense. I’m getting a feel for what the safeties are doing; we have new additions in Antrel [Rolle] and Adrian [Amos] over there, and Kyle [Fuller] at cornerback. We’ve been rotating groups and rotating guys. You get that gel between the whole group. It’s been good.”

Another beneficiary of Jennings’ release is Sherrick McManis. A longtime special teams ace, McManis enjoyed a stellar camp and is poised to finally contribute on defense, perhaps at nickel back.

McManis appeared in 62 games from 2010-14, but started just one time in the secondary.

“Every year I'm optimistic, so I felt like whether it was going to come or not [me playing defense], I was going to try to give it 100 percent -- that's just in me to try and go out there and try to do the best that I can,” McManis said.

“[I’m] pretty comfortable [at nickel]. I don't know everything yet there is to know at the nickel position, and I doubt that'll ever happen. I'm just continuing to grow, like I said, watch film and my comfort level will get better each day. It definitely is a little different, but at the same time I am covering people like I would at corner and just sticking to them.”