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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Bears mailbag: How about a CB?

By Jeff Dickerson

Charles Tillman
Charles Tillman is part of a shallow Bears secondary.

JD, I've heard you talk up Zack Bowman on the radio the last few weeks, why the love? I thought he was an average cornerback at best, who got exposed by top receivers like Detroit's Calvin Johnson. Are the Bears looking to upgrade the corner position? -- Dwight, Countryside, Ill.

Dwight, let's remember Bowman played in only one game as a rookie, so last year was really his first taste of live NFL action. The Bears had 13 total interceptions in 2009, six of those were by Bowman, who actually dropped a couple easy picks during the season. Not only that, Bowman proved to be an above average open field tackler, making 56 solo stops along with 19 assists. You're right, he did struggle against elite guys like Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, but I'm willing to bet Bowman will be much more confident against those top tier wideouts in 2010. We constantly complain how the Bears lack playmakers in the secondary, well, Bowman is a playmaker. He still needs to stay healthy, but the fact Bowman was active for all 16 games last season is a positive sign. To answer your other question, yes, the Bears do need to add another cornerback to the mix. After Bowman and Charles Tillman, they're lacking quality depth at that spot, since it's unclear if Lovie Smith feels he can depend on Nathan Vasher, D.J. Moore or Corey Graham.

I saw Darren Sharper had minor knee surgery this offseason, but I still want him in a Bears uniform. What does Jerry Angelo have to do to get him? -- Laurence, Kankakee, Ill.

Darren Sharper is a smart guy. He understands the importance of creating as much leverage as possible in the free agent market. But look at the facts, Sharper wasn't very good playing safety in a Cover 2 defense during the end of his tenure in Minnesota.

"Playing in the style that I played in at Minnesota last year [Leslie Frazier's version of the Cover 2] I was more of a protector, as far as being a guy that kept everything in front of us to try and prevent a big play," Sharper said during the Super Bowl. "I think [New Orleans defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams' style of defense allows me to be a playmaker and trust my instincts, to attack the football."

"It's two different worlds … last year compared to this year."
Sharper would be better off if he stayed in New Orleans … and so would the Bears.
It's a crowded backfield now that Chester Taylor signed with the Bears. Who will be the other running backs after Taylor and Matt Forte? -- Tim, Prospect Heights, Ill.
Adrian Peterson is an unrestricted free agent, so he's out of the picture -- especially after losing reps to Kahlil Bell last season. If it weren't for a season-ending injury in that final preseason game, Kevin Jones probably would've been cut last summer. He seems to be in real danger of being released after the addition of Taylor. If the Bears decide to keep three running backs, it may come down to Bell or Garrett Wolfe. Before you start packing Wolfe's bags, remember he's an excellent special teams player, which plays a big role in who does and does not stick on the roster. Or the Bears could decide to retain all four backs. Either way, I'm sure we'll be paying close attention to the Bears backfield this summer in Bourbonnais.

Everyone can agree that even with these great new additions, the Bears have some major holes to fill (offensive line, safety, etc.). But what still baffles me is why they would go and invest in a prime time quarterback like Jay Cutler, and not give him anything more than a mediocre, work-in-progress receiving corps. Any chance they grab a true No. 1 WR before next season? -- B. Figgins, Houston
Probably not, because those guys are tough to find. Anquan Boldin was already dealt to Baltimore, and the Broncos gave Brandon Marshall a first-round tender (the Bears don't have a 2010 first round pick), so those two are off the board. Please don't bring up Terrell Owens, that's the last thing the Bears need. However, I would not be opposed to adding a middle-tier veteran receiver like Mike Furrey or Josh Reed, with the hope being somebody with experience could help the younger players better digest Mike Martz's complicated playbook. It's okay that the Bears are high on Johnny Knox, Devin Aromashodu and Devin Hester, but I'd still like to have at least one veteran. I understand the Bears made a mistake by signing Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd back in 2008, but why should that scare them off bringing in an experienced receiver? Just don't bring in bad ones like Booker and Lloyd.

What's the Bears record going to be now that they added Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor? -- Peter, Long Grove, Ill.

Considering I got assassinated last spring when I picked the Bears to go 9-7, I'm going to hold off giving any concrete predictions. Look, the Bears can be good if: Jay Cutler bounces back; Peppers produces double-digit sacks; Tommie Harris plays like a Pro Bowler; Brian Urlacher stays healthy; the safety situation gets rectified; Lance Briggs keeps up his outstanding play; the receivers take that next step; Olin Kreutz recovers from offseason surgery; the offensive line improves and the coaching staff meshes well with each other. Those are a lot of question marks, but every NFL team has its issues at this time of the year. Let's wait and see what further moves the Bears make in free agency, and what pieces they add in the draft, before we start projecting any records. All I can say right now, is Minnesota and Green Bay are likely ahead of the Bears. What happens over the next two months will determine if that order changes.