Bears' D to benefit from new-look offense

June, 13, 2012
6/13/12
6:30
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Bears/SeahawksAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Bears' defense might benefit from the newfound offensive fire power.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Although additions on defense seemed few compared to what the Chicago Bears did on the other side of the ball, coach Lovie Smith thinks the team’s new offensive weaponry can actually play a role in improving the defense.

Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman admitted as much, too, based strictly off practice matchups against new receiver Brandon Marshall.

“I love it,” Tillman said. “It’s making us a lot better with Earl (Bennett) in the slot, with Devin (Hester) in the slot, with Brandon. I think (quarterback) Jay (Cutler) has a pretty good arsenal, a pretty good selection (also with) adding Eric Weems. The one thing I can say about Brandon is it’s like game day every day. Every play, I feel like I’m getting that game-quality competition. He’s a competitor. I’m a competitor, and I need that. It makes me good and it pushes me, and I think it pushes him as well.”

Officially, the Bears actually added eight players on offense and eight more on defense through veteran free agency and the 2012 NFL Draft. Perhaps the acquisitions on offense just seemed more pronounced considering the team’s struggles at receiver -- a position at which the Bears added one of the league’s best in Marshall -- and at backup quarterback, where it picked up former first-round pick Jason Campbell.

Smith said the playmakers acquired on offense “gives (the defense) confidence.” Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli revels in the “really great competition” between the units in practices.

“We talk a lot on the defensive side about getting the football back, giving our offense another opportunity to win and to score points,” Smith said. “Knowing what we have over there, they can see that even more by adding a guy like Brandon Marshall, like Michael Bush, Eric Weems, getting Kellen Davis into the mix more along with our stars that we had on offense last year.”

That’s not to say the defense hasn’t improved. Tillman called the cornerback position “the best group we’ve had in just overall talent” in “my 10 years of being here.”

Smith singled out the corners for producing a strong offseason as well, but added that by working throughout the offseason program, safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright “both have a chance to be pretty good football players.”

“So I feel pretty good about our secondary,” Smith said. “They get a chance to work with a guy like Brandon Marshall every day (which is) especially (beneficial) for a guy like Charles Tillman getting ready for the big guy in Detroit (Calvin Johnson). I like what we’re doing.”

Perhaps Bears fans will, too, in 2012.

“It’s great,” Marinelli said of the defense’s work thus far against the offense. “We’ve got some great receivers, and our quarterback obviously has got a cannon. That’s size, and they’re fast. So that’s great stuff for us. I think our guys look forward to it.”

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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