Chicago Bears: Tim Jennings

Tim JenningsAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTim Jennings, left, expects to be rushing the quarterback more often this season.
We caught up with Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings recently to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from his work with martial arts expert Joe Kim to what he thought of the changes last season made by coach Marc Trestman.

As training camp approaches, here’s something to whet your appetite for Bears football:

Since you’re playing nickel some and you’re expected to do some blitzing, tell us what are you doing with Joe Kim?

Tim Jennings: Joe Kim, he’s supposed to be like a master of kung fu or whatnot. So he works a lot with our defensive line on their pass-rush moves. So I work with Joe Kim now that I’m playing the nickel position. I think I’m going to be blitzing a lot more. So I need to kind of work on some pass-rush moves, man, because I can’t beat everybody with the quickness and strength. So I want to put some more in my repertoire.

With the scheme changing up front, how much do things change for you guys on the back end?

Jennings: It doesn’t really change too much. [Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker] just wants us to be in the position to do our jobs. Really, our success comes from that defensive front, and I think that’s why he’s doing a lot more things to try to create the freedom for those guys to get to the quarterback and create pressure; just let me, Charles [Tillman], and now Kyle Fuller just do our thing.

With all the things this team did with the front this offseason, how much easier will it make your job on the back end?

Jennings: Of course, that’s exactly what I expect. On the back end we just have to do our job, be where we need to be and then the plays will start coming because of the pressure that we’re putting on the quarterback. The throws won’t be as perfect. Then, we could start getting a feel for some things to where we can be there a little bit quicker, where the field starts to shrink. Then, we can start to anticipate things a lot more. I think that’s just the approach that Coach Tucker has taken. Me and Charles, we’re taking that same approach. We just need to do our jobs, be where we need to be, do what we’ve been doing for the past couple of years that we’ve been playing together. With the pressure on the quarterback, if we’re getting to the quarterback, a lot more plays will come for us on the back end. It will work hand in hand. So if we’re where we need to be, we can take some throws away from the quarterback, make him hold it longer. We’ll get a lot more snaps.

Throughout the offseason, you’ve worked some at nickel while Fuller has gone to your spot outside. With camp coming up, do you anticipate any packages where maybe Fuller goes inside to nickel while you stay outside?

Jennings: Right now, I do not anticipate that. I think I’m that guy to move inside. Just the fact that we’re looking at our division, guys we’re going to face and stuff, matchups that we’ll have. We want to make sure the matchup is to where we’ve got the best advantage, where we can be equal with those guys. Maybe if we’re playing Detroit and they move Calvin Johnson inside at the slot, of course we’re going to have Charles Tillman follow him around. We feel like that’s a better matchup. It gives us the best chance to win. So we’re going to move guys around and we’re going to match up. I think that’s why we drafted Kyle Fuller. It was a good move.

Last year, you guys didn’t get the repetitions at practice that you had been used to getting in the past, and we saw what happened. Do you see this team making some changes or tweaks in terms of how you do things at practice this upcoming season?

Jennings: Well, I don’t think we’re going to change that. One thing about coach [Marc] Trestman is he’s big on competition. So he’s going to line up his ones against his ones. He wants to get the best out of both teams, offense, defense and special teams. So the structure I don’t think is going to change. As far as us not practicing [last year], I wouldn’t say all that. I think the reps that we get are quality reps because we compete so much. When I am out there, it’s against our ones. It’s against Brandon [Marshall]. It’s against Alshon [Jeffery]. It’s a way for us to get better. But he’s being smart about the reps knowing that it’s a long, long, long season. It’s big to make sure guys are healthy and ready to go on Sunday. It took me some getting used to when he first got here last year, to really realize what’s going on, why we’re doing things this way. But it’s making sense to me right now in seeing the structure he does things in and the competition he wants from this group is meaningful.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Third-round draft choice Will Sutton practiced on Thursday after being excused the previous two days for what he called "a family emergency".

Sutton never went into specific details about the matter but said "everything is good now" when asked if the situation had been resolved.

"I talked it over with the coaches and they let me go," Sutton said. "They said to take as time as I need but I'm here today."

Sutton felt he performed fine on Thursday despite missing the first two days of the club's mandatory minicamp, but the Arizona State product revealed that he plans to return home in the weeks leading up to training camp to ensure that he keeps himself in top physical shape. Sutton gained weight his final year with the Sun Devils that caused his production and draft stock to dip.

He is currently listed at 6-foot, 303 pounds on the Bears' official offseason roster.

"I'm just going to go back to Arizona and train," Sutton said. "It's going to be hot. It's going to be hot.

"My weight isn't a problem. I put on the weight [last year] because I was told to. It's not a problem. It's not that I'm lazy and don't work out."

Speaking of working out, the Bears don't necessarily view the five week gap between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp as a vacation. Bears head coach Marc Trestman delivered that message to his team at their final meeting before the players left the building Thursday afternoon. Apparently, Trestman's speech resonated within the locker room.

"There's no real time to rest," Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. "You might take your weekends off, but for five days a week you need to get ready for training camp. It's not time to take off."

Kicker Robbie Gould added: "The time to take vacations is in January."

The Bears are set to report to training camp on July 24 on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois.

• Teams can learn a lot about themselves over the course of an eight-week NFL offseason program.

But can you actually tell if a team will be good in the regular season based on OTAs and minicamp?

"No, you really can't tell," Bears Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings said. "All you can tell is where your team is at. You don't know where you are going to rank, but you know what you have at this moment."

• The Bears clearly like that they have seen from rookie safety Brock Vereen. He took all the first-team reps alongside Ryan Mundy throughout the entire minicamp, but the organization is not ready to anoint Vereen a starter.

• Trestman described undrafted rookie free agent Jordan Lynch as being in the mix for a reserve role in the Bears' offensive backfield.

"We have a logjam from two through five [on the running back depth chart]. Jordan is in that logjam. A lot of that will be balanced out with special teams. I'm looking forward to seeing him in pads with the rest of the younger guys.

"Jordan is doing well."

• Safety Chris Conte was excused for a third straight day due to an illness that the Bears were concerned could be contagious, according to Trestman. However, the bulk of the roster was present on the final day of minicamp, although right tackle Jordan Mills, right guard Kyle Long, cornerback Sherrick McManis and Matt Slauson did not participate.

• Safety Craig Steltz went through individual drills for the third straight day while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had full participation after he rested on Wednesday.

Observations: Bears to trim a QB?

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
5:56
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jordan Palmer's return from a minor strain to his right throwing shoulder did little to clear up the Bears' fuzzy picture at the backup quarterback position.

Limited by the injury the last two weeks of organized team activities (OTAs), Palmer had full participation in the Bears' first of three mandatory minicamp workouts held on Tuesday, but he seemed to struggle with his accuracy at times, although Palmer reported no issues with his shoulder when he spoke with reporters after the practice.

"I felt great," Palmer said. "It was good to be back in the mix. I thought we had a pretty good practice today. [There wasn't] too much [rust]. It's still football. We're still wearing shorts and T-shirts, but it was good to be back out there with the guys."

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhWith the addition of Jimmy Clausen, the Bears now have quarterbacks under contract.
Meantime, newcomer Jimmy Clausen made the most of his limited reps, and even spent the end of practice occasionally working in with Palmer and starter Jay Cutler, while developmental quarterbacks David Fales and Jerrod Johnson took turns running the scout team offense on the other side of the field.

Clausen signed a one-year deal with the Bears on June 7.

"I watched Jimmy when he was at Notre Dame," Cutler said. "Liked him. He was in a tough situation out there in Carolina. Offensive line was pretty rough; he was getting hit a lot. The system turned over on him. He throws the ball well. I didn't have any input on bringing him here, though. Once he did get here, though, he was in the quarterback room over the weekend three straight days grinding way, trying to figure out this offense. He was peppering me and David Fales, [quarterbacks coach] Matt Cavanaugh, all questions. So he's been working hard. I think he likes the opportunity he has here. He's a little bit humbled going through the experience of being on the streets and getting picked up again. He's got a good attitude. Training camp and preseason, we'll see how it works out."

Clausen's first task is sticking on the roster long enough to report to training camp with the club on July 24. But the odds of that happening seem promising. However, with five quarterbacks currently under contract, the Bears are likely to jettison at least one reserve quarterback in the coming weeks.

"I don't know if that's ever happened [going to camp with five quarterbacks], not in the times I've coached the position," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. "These next two days are certainly critical; we've got to continue to analyze the situation. It would be hard to, we need legs at camp, but we'll see. We'll make that decision, and we don't even have to make that decision this week, we'll make it before the start of training camp. I think we've got five viable guys. You take Jay out of it and we've got four guys that are really competing hard and all have the requisite skill set to play in the National Football League, we've just got to continue to watch it and see how it unfolds."

Here are other observations from the Bears' opening minicamp practice:

• The Bears rested starting right tackle Jordan Mills (foot) after the second-year offensive lineman returned from offseason surgery in May to participate in OTAs. Mills called his absence "precautionary," but wasn't sure if he'd practice on Wednesday or Thursday before the team breaks for the summer.

"It's just a little precaution, nothing major," Mills said. "I'm 100 percent. I was kind of mad I couldn't go out there and practice today with them but the trainers know best. They just wanted to rest my foot a little bit.

• Safety Chris Conte, linebacker Khaseem Greene and defensive tackle Will Sutton were all excused for "family reasons" according to Trestman. Matt Slauson (shoulder) was present but continued to sit out. Safety Craig Steltz took part in certain individual drills as he recovers from an offseason leg issue.

• Veteran Kelvin Hayden was the Bears' fourth cornerback when the team went to its dime package on defense.

• Trestman called D.J. Williams "the lead dog" at middle linebacker, but 2013 second-round pick Jon Bostic took reps with the first team at linebacker in the nickel package, and could definitely still challenge for the open outside linebacker spot if Williams manages to stay healthy and solidifies the middle in the club's base defense.

• Safety Ryan Mundy dropped an easy pick when a Cutler pass sailed off its mark close to the right hash.

• Linebackers Jerry Franklin and Christian Jones saw action with the No. 2 group. Jones, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Florida State, has opened some eyes in the offseason program.

• With Mills out, Michael Ola spent time at right tackle with the starters. Brian de la Puente continued to take reps at left guard.

• Converted running back Jordan Lynch ran a wheel route out of the backfield and caught a diving touchdown pass from Johnson late in the session.

• Rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller broke up a pair of passes in team drills.

• Brandon Marshall burned Tim Jennings for a long touchdown reception. On the play, the Bears had speedster Chris Williams lined up in the slot.

• The Bears invited numerous NFL player agents to Halas Hall on Tuesday to watch practice inside the Walter Payton Center. Agents are frequently spotted catching up with their clients at training camp, but rarely are large groups of agents permitted to observe a workout held at the team's facility.

Observations: Vereen challenging at FS

June, 11, 2014
Jun 11
4:02
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Based on the organized team activities (OTA) portion of the Chicago Bears' offseason program, rookie fourth-round pick Brock Vereen looks to be a serious contender to earn a permanent place in the starting lineup.

[+] EnlargeBrock Vereen
Nam Y. Huh/AP PhotoBears safety Brock Vereen, who participated in the team's rookie minicamp in May, is adjusting to playing in the NFL.
Vereen took all the first-team reps at safety alongside free-agent signee Ryan Mundy on Wednesday, as veterans Chris Conte and Craig Steltz continue to be sidelined due to injuries. M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray handled the reps on the second team.

"I wouldn't say [I'm] shocked [by the starters reps], but I know nothing is set," Vereen said. "I'm just coming in and working hard. If that gets me on the field, then so be it.

"It's really starting to slow down for me out there. Now I'm able to react rather than to have to think about it."

Vereen played multiple defensive back positions in college for Minnesota, but appears best suited to line up at free safety in the NFL. Mundy is built like a strong safety at 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, but the safety spots are generally viewed as interchangeable.

Here are other observations from Wednesday's OTA, the final session open to the media:

• With Matt Slauson still recovering from shoulder surgery, Brian de la Puente worked with the starters at left guard. Many consider de la Puente to be the heir apparent to Roberto Garza at center, although the former New Orleans Saints starter signed only a one-year contract with the Bears in the offseason.

• Cornerback Charles Tillman and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff were present this week after being absent from last week's open OTA to the media.

• The Bears' trio of linebackers in their base defense during the majority of team drills consisted of D.J. Williams (MLB), Lance Briggs (WLB) and Shea McClellin (SLB). However, both Williams and McClellin came off the field in the nickel package in favor of Jon Bostic.

• Rookie first-round draft choice Kyle Fuller continued to run with the No. 1's in nickel as Tim Jennings mainly bumped inside to cover the slot with Tillman at the opposite cornerback spot.

Jay Cutler connected with Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson in the end zone on back-to-back passes during a red zone drill. Marshall did have a couple drops over the course of the afternoon.

• Marshall did return a punt at one point on Wednesday.

• Reserve quarterback Jerrod Johnson saw action on special teams when he lined up as one of the two cornerbacks tasked with slowing down the gunner on punt return. Hard to remember a quarterback wearing the orange "off-limits" jersey ever participating on special teams before. But Johnson held up just fine during the drill and flashed some impressive speed trailing the gunner down the field.

• New quarterback Jimmy Clausen received fewer reps than Johnson and rookie David Fales, but the former Carolina Panther had some zip on the ball and seemed to have a decent understanding of the offense whenever he went under center.

• The Bears have one final OTA scheduled for Thursday in advance of the club's three-day veteran minicamp next week. Cutler is expected to meet the media next Tuesday for the first time since the start of the offseason in April.

Observations: Scuffle breaks out

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
4:39
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A brief skirmish broke out at Tuesday's organized team activity during a team drill between members of the Chicago Bears' starting offense and defense. Involved in the short-lived fracas was defensive end Lamarr Houston, right tackle Jordan Mills, tight end Martellus Bennett and defensive end Jared Allen.

Teammates quickly intervened to end the fight, but not before Bennett slammed his own helmet to the ground in frustration.

[+] EnlargeAlshon Jeffery
Nam Y. Huh/AP PhotoChicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had some outstanding catches during Tuesday's organized team activities in Lake Forest, Illinois.
"We are just competing,” Houston said afterward. "This is a competitive sport. That's the atmosphere Coach Trestman wants. We are competing every day to get better. Sometimes people get heated, but all we are doing is competing out there. It's exciting out there. It's a competitive atmosphere. We're having fun in practice.

"That's football. We just go back to the next play and keep working. It's nothing personal. Marty is a good guy. He's a good friend of mine. I'm going to go in there with him after this. Everything is all good.”

Bennett later tweeted: "I go hard every [expletive] day. No doubt about that. Not a single ounce of [expletive] in me.”

Here are several other observations from Tuesday's voluntary session:

• Former New Orleans Saints center Brian De La Puente split reps with Eben Britton at left guard with starter Matt Slauson sidelined due to a shoulder injury.

• Middle linebacker D.J. Williams worked out in front of the media for the first time in the offseason. Williams was absent from last Tuesday's open OTA, but did participate in practices later in the week that were closed to the media.

Charles Tillman's absence on Tuesday opened the door for veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden to receive a look on the first team at cornerback in the base defense and in the nickel package. Hayden missed the entire 2013 regular season after tearing his hamstring in training camp. Rookie first-round pick Kyle Fuller still worked with the starters in nickel when Tim Jennings bumped inside to cover the slot.

• Hall of Famer Mike Ditka watched Tuesday's workout from the sidelines in Lake Forest. Ditka addressed the team last year following a practice at Halas Hall, and had his number retired by the Bears during halftime of the team's Monday night Dec. 9 game versus the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field.

• Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery flashed his strong hands when he went up and snagged a red-zone pass over Jennings.

• Safeties Ryan Mundy and Brock Vereen had blanket coverage on Brandon Marshall on a deep Jay Cutler ball down the middle of the field. The pass fell incomplete.

• Rookie David Fales and second-year quarterback Jerrod Johnson received extra reps in team drills as No. 2 QB Jordan Palmer took a backseat to allow the young quarterbacks to get extended looks.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- When the coaching staff yelled for the first-team nickel defense to take the field Tuesday during organized team activities, cornerback Tim Jennings simply took a couple of steps inside from his customary spot outside to the nickel position.

Jennings
First-round pick Kyle Fuller, meanwhile, trotted over into Jennings' spot opposite Charles Tillman.

Jennings understands the team wants its first-round pick on the field as soon as possible, and he's fine moving inside to nickel to make that happen.

"We're gonna try it out. We've got to get Fuller out there so I'll move in on nickel packages and we'll bring Fuller at the left corner," Jennings said. "Hopefully, it'll be a full-time thing."

What?

Having signed to a four-year extension worth $22.4 million on Jan. 2 coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons as a left cornerback, Jennings said he still would have taken the new deal if told beforehand he'd wind up playing nickel this season in the team's sub packages. Bears general manager Phil Emery pointed out Jennings' enthusiasm and attitude as reasons for the club's desire to bring back the cornerback long term.

Besides that, Jennings brings a playmaking element to the nickel spot, an attribute sorely needed because in 2013 the Bears failed to generate turnovers from that position. Part of the reason for that was Isaiah Frey played a good portion of last season at that position with a broken hand.

"Signing Tim to me is about rewarding excellence, and he has had that," Emery said back in January. "I can't tell you enough about the energy he brings, the positive upbeat style. I've always been very impressed with his athletic suddenness, his competitive fire, and the energy that he brings along with a key thing: He's a playmaker. He's had nine picks a year ago, and four picks this year. Those are the types of players that make us better, that make a difference that make plays. Career wise, [he] started 79 games out of 115 played, had 385 total tackles, 20 picks, 71 passes defended, seven forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries. [He's a] big part of our defense since he's been here, tremendous Pro Bowl season a year ago."

Those credentials and the big paycheck aren't so much that Jennings scoffs at the idea of moving inside to nickel in sub packages. When the Bears operated out of base defense Tuesday, Jennings played left corner opposite Tillman.

Besides that, Jennings mentioned he's experienced at covering in the slot. Early in his career with the Indianapolis Colts, Jennings said the only way he could get a shot at playing time was to take on the role as a nickel corner.

"It's a little different for me. I've got to get back to acclimated to playing nickel, and playing two positions on defense," Jennings said. "You're just another linebacker, an athletic linebacker. You have to be able to see a lot more things. You've got to be able to see a lot more backfield sets. It's a lot more reads, a lot more keys you have to get. I've got to get used to seeing different people, different formations with my eyes, and being able to see different things with my keys. It should be a couple days going out there I'll be back in the groove. Once I think I get that going, it'll be a good transition for all three of us. I'm kind of excited about it. We feel we have to get Kyle on the field running. So whether he has to play corner and I have to play nickel, we all have to take our jobs and just do what they ask us to do."
One week after Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery called the safety position “wide open,” the Bears bypassed the top two safeties in the 2014 NFL draft class (Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) and selected Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller in the first round at No. 14 overall.

Fuller
Many wondered why the Bears invested a first-round pick at cornerback over safety since Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are entrenched as starters for the upcoming season.

Emery explained the club’s thought process on the matter during an in-studio interview with ESPN 1000’s “Carmen and Jurko Show” on Thursday.

“You can’t lose sight that as a league, the corner position is more valued,” Emery said. “There was a number of top safety contracts recently signed: Jairus Byrd, Earl Thomas, Donte Whitner and T.J. Ward. Look at those contracts versus the top cornerback contracts recently signed: Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields and Joe Haden. On the average, those deals for cornerbacks are much higher, starting on average per year from $10 million to $14 million. The range for safeties is about $7 million to $10 million on the very top end.

"Cornerbacks have always been more valued than safeties, so you always have to look at the value of the position. You also have to look at who you play and at the league as a whole. A good portion of the time your third cornerback is a starter. There were times last year the nickel cornerback played 70 to 80 percent of the snaps. We look at the nickel as a versatile player that can play inside, outside and cover tight ends, running backs and wideouts. We definitely knew we would get the rep value when we took Kyle Fuller. For us, that was the best player for the Bears.”

Mark Carrier remains the last Bears safety selected in the first round (1990). The Bears have taken only two safeties in the second round since 2000 (Mike Brown and Danieal Manning) but seem to address the position on an almost annual basis. Brock Vereen, taken in the fourth round this year, is the ninth safety chosen by the Bears in the past 10 drafts.

The rookie joins veterans Ryan Mundy, Chris Conte, Craig Steltz, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Sean Cattouse in the battle for the two starting safety spots.

“As it stands right now, the starters will come from that group,” Emery said. “We feel that is a very competitive mix.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The arrival of cornerback Kyle Fuller will not force 33 year old veteran Charles Tillman to move to safety.

Tillman
Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery confirmed Friday that Tillman is not a candidate to switch positions.

"You can rule that out 100 percent -- you don't even have to finish your question," Emery said. Charles Tillman is our starting corner and that's where he's going to be."

Emery's endorsement of Tillman nonwithstanding, Fuller is expected to contribute on defense next season and projects to be a future starter at cornerback, perhaps as early as 2015.

That much is certain.

However, the great unknown is how Fuller meshes with Tillman and fellow two-time Pro Bowler Tim Jennings, who has the security of a new four-year, $22.4 million contract extension he signed at the end of the regular season. Tillman signed a one-year deal with the Bears in March after he explored his options in free agency.

How will Tillman react to having his potential replacement looking over his shoulder?

We don't know the answer. But Emery isn't worried.

"I have to be honest with you -- it's rare that you do that [consult a veteran before making a draft choice at the same position], as we're so focused on getting the best player available and I completely trust the input of our scouts and coaches during that process," Emery said. "And we come to a conclusion and work through who is the best player at that pick, who represents the most value and who can help the Bears win. That's where the focus is, we don't bring players in and ask their advice on that, we know they'll be excited and are excited that we pick a good player that they see can contribute to wins. That's when they get excited.

"But I definitely had players text me last night and congratulate us on the pick and it was good to hear from them. And like Coach mentioned, we're a family, we're here for each other and we're going to help Kyle through this process. He'll probably have more than one mentor to help him through the process, and what's exciting about that is Kyle's the type of person who can accept mentoring. It takes a certain level of maturity to let others reach out and help along the way and Kyle is certainly that type of person."

Bears draft focus: CB

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
8:00
AM ET
With veteran two-time Pro Bowler Charles Tillman back in the fold on just a one-year deal, the clock is ticking for the Chicago Bears to find a future starting cornerback.

Ideally, the Bears would draft a corner that is comparable in size to Tillman (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) in order to defend the taller wide receivers in the NFC North.

The general consensus is the Bears will probably steer clear of the smaller cornerbacks because 5-foot-8 Tim Jennings just signed a new four-year, $22.4 million contract. The team needs to find a replacement for Tillman.

There is a strong chance the Bears use one of their top-three picks next month on a cornerback, although it remains to be seen in what specific round they pull the trigger.

If Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert falls to the Bears at No. 14, he may be hard to pass up. The trio of Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller are all candidates to be selected in the first round, and should all be on the board when the Bears pick.

Fuller reportedly made a recent pre-draft visit to the Bears.

In the event the Bears wait to take a cornerback until the second or third round, Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir could be an option. ESPNChicago.com reported that Bears director of college scouting Marty Barrett attended Desir’s personal pro day in March.

Desir (6-foot-1, 198 pounds) is a three-time Division II All-American with 25 career interceptions.

Utah’s Keith McGill, Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner and Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste have all been linked to the Bears in the second round in various mock drafts.

This projects to be a particularly deep draft a cornerback, so even if the Bears wait a round or two, they should still be in good shape.

Five projected targets:

1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
2. Darqueze Denard, Michigan State
3. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
4. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
5. Pierre Desir, Lindenwood

The next five: 6. Keith McGill, Utah; 7. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska; 8. Jason Verrett, TCU; 9. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State; 10. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma.

Position grade: A

Bears free agency: good and bad

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
8:00
AM ET
Jennings
Good
Tim Jennings
Position: Cornerback
Contract: Third contract with Bears -- four years, $22.4 million
Years of service with Bears: 2010-present

Recap: The Bears viewed Jennings as a placeholder when they initially signed him to a two-year deal in 2010 after he played the first four years of his NFL career in Indianapolis. Three contracts later, Jennings is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and considered one of the defense's top performers. In four years in Chicago, Jennings has 287 tackles, 16 interceptions, 45 pass breakups and five forced fumbles in 58 starts. Jennings led the NFL with nine interceptions in 2012, tied for the second most in Bears' single-season history. Not bad for a player that began 2010 as the No. 3 cornerback on the roster behind Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman.

Taylor
Bad
Chester Taylor
Position: Running back
Contract: Four years, $12.5 million
Year of service with Bears: 2010

Recap: Taylor had a successful eight-year run in Baltimore and Minnesota. He even rushed for 1,216 yards in 2006 for the Vikings. But Taylor only averaged 2.4 yards per carry on 112 attempts (267 yards) in 2010. While Matt Forte flourished in the backfield en route to another 1,000 season (1,069 yards), Taylor never seemed to find a groove. Instead of paying Taylor's salary in 2011, the Bears released him. He played one more season for the Arizona Cardinals before leaving the league. Taylor's signing began a steak of bad No. 2 running backs behind Forte on the depth chart.

Countdown to Combine: Bears

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
9:00
AM ET
With the NFL combine starting Feb. 22, here’s a look at Chicago's positions of need and which prospects the Bears might be looking taking a closer look at in Indianapolis. Positions of need are listed in order of importance.

Position of need: Cornerback

With franchise stalwart Charles Tillman pondering pending free agency, Tim Jennings, who signed a four-year deal in January worth $11.8 million guaranteed, remains the only cornerback on the club’s roster with experience as a starter.

Even if the Bears manage to bring back Tillman to start opposite Jennings in 2014, they still need to add depth in addition to addressing the future at the cornerback position. Of the nine cornerbacks on the roster at the end of the season, four are free agents; a list which includes Tillman, Kelvin Hayden, Sherrick McManis and Zack Bowman.

Tillman started in eight of nine games before finally going on the injured reserve with a torn triceps.

“We dearly missed the on-the-field leadership of Charles Tillman after his injury,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said at the end of the season. “He is a physical, playmaking football player who the players greatly respect. All of his teammates respect him. His loss had a significant impact on where we were as a defense.”

That loss could wind up being permanent despite the sides remaining engaged in dialogue about a deal that could bring back Tillman for 2014.

Three players the Bears could be targeting

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State: Some mock drafts project Gilbert going to the Bears at No. 14. In addition to running track in college, Gilbert picked off seven passes, running two back for touchdowns. Considered a big-play specialist, Gilbert also provides versatility as a potential return man. He averaged 25.2 yards per kick return at Oklahoma State, including five returns for TDs.

Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State: Not as big as Gilbert, but a case can be made for Dennard being the only shutdown corner in this year’s class. Dennard won the Thorpe Award, given annually to the top defensive back in the nation. Dennard picked off four passes last season, in addition to contributing 59 tackles. There have been questions about Dennard’s true speed, but he’s considered one of the more fundamentally sound corners of the class.

Jason Verrett, Texas Christian: Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner possesses similar size, but played with a better supporting cast than Verrett, who is instinctive, anticipates well, and physical, despite a lack of ideal size. Opponents threw away from him during his final season, but Verrett picked off nine passes and broke up 34 more in three years as a starter. Verrett’s explosiveness is similar to that of Jennings.

Bears sign CB Derricus Purdy

February, 19, 2014
Feb 19
10:02
AM ET
The Chicago Bears signed former Texas Southern cornerback Derricus Purdy, according to the NFL transaction wire.

Texas Southern’s official website lists Purdy as having 34 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups for the Tigers in 2012.

The 6-foot, 190 pound cornerback went undrafted in 2013.

Even with a long-term deal in place for Pro Bowler Tim Jennings, the Bears are expected to experience some turnover at the cornerback position with veterans Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis and Kelvin Hayden all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.

Purdy is the third cornerback the Bears have inked to a reserve/futures deal since the end of the regular season, joining C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst on the offseason roster.

Bears position outlook: Cornerback

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
8:00
AM ET
Free agents: Charles Tillman, Zack Bowman, Sherrick McManis and Kelvin Hayden.

The good: Tim Jennings earned a return trip to the Pro Bowl and a new four-year, $22.4 million contract after he led the defense with four interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Before he suffered a season-ending triceps injury, Tillman had three picks and three forced fumbles. Bowman, who replaced Tillman in the starting lineup for the final seven weeks, had two interceptions and a pick-six in a pivotal win over the Cleveland Browns. Second-year nickel back Isaiah Frey made 62 tackles despite playing some of the year with a broken hand. The Bears' pass defense was by far the strength of the unit in 2013. McManis was second on the team with 15 special teams tackles.

The bad: Losing a player of Tillman’s caliber would hurt any team. Bowman did an admirable job stepping in for the two-time Pro Bowler, but Tillman is a turnover machine. His playmaking ability was missed. Hayden, who began training camp as the starting nickel back, went on injured reserve during the preseason.

The money (2014 salary cap figures): Jennings is scheduled to count $7.5 million against the cap next year, per the terms of his new deal. Frey, a 2012 sixth-round draft choice, will eat up only $495,000 worth of space in 2014. It’s unclear what the Bears plan to offer Tillman in free agency, but it will likely be far less than the $8,001,575 he made last season.

Draft priority: The Bears do have a couple of young cornerbacks on their offseason roster (C.J. Wilson and Demontre Hurst), but with Tillman, Bowman, McManis and Hayden all in-line to test the market, general manager Phil Emery would be justified in selecting a cornerback in the draft. Bowman is another versatile veteran who can be re-signed for close to the league minimum.

Bears position outlook: Defensive tackle

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
8:00
AM ET
2014 free agents: Landon Cohen, Nate Collins, Henry Melton, Jeremiah Ratliff and Corey Wootton (DT/DE).

The good: Wootton proved flexible enough to move inside after Melton and Collins were lost for the season due to knee injuries. Although Wootton was bothered by a hip issue that eventually required offseason surgery to correct, the versatile free-agent defensive linemen managed to record 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 12 quarterback pressures. Bears general manager Phil Emery was non-committal about Wootton’s future with the club at the end of the regular season, but did remark that, “I’m sure that we’ll continue to talk to him.” Wootton is expected to need several months to rehabilitate his surgically repaired hip before he receives the necessary medical clearance to resume football-related activities without restrictions. Ratliff, a nine-year NFL veteran who the Bears added to the roster later in the year, did a serviceable job in the final five games and is another candidate to return.

The bad: How much time do you have? Decimated by injuries (Melton, Collins and Stephen Paea) and the surprise retirement of Sedrick Ellis on the eve of training camp, the Bears were exposed up the middle in the run game and failed to generate an acceptable pass rush. Six opponents rushed for at least 198 yards versus the Bears. Some of those running lanes between the tackles against the Bears defense can best be described as monstrous. Remove Wootton from the equation and the entire defensive tackle group combined for only 4.0 sacks over the entire season. Melton played in just three games despite pocketing $8,454,725 as the club’s franchise-tag player. Not surprisingly, the team recently parted company with defensive line coach Mike Phair.

The money (2014 salary-cap numbers): Thankfully, the Bears have next to nothing allocated to the position. With almost the entire group currently scheduled to be off the books, the highest projected cap figure belongs to Paea -- $1,172,787. Although the Bears tied up a good portion of their 2014 salary-cap space with extensions for quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerback Tim Jennings, left guard Matt Slauson and kicker Robbie Gould, there are options available to open up more space to potentially add a proven defensive tackle in free agency if necessary.

Draft priority: Urgent. The Bears must begin the task of rebuilding the defensive line. Emery promised a younger defense in 2014. The only way to accomplish that is by finding high-impact defensive players in the draft who can contribute immediately. Selecting a defensive tackle in the early rounds appears likely.

The next big thing: Bears

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
12:00
PM ET
The Chicago Bears took care of some of the heavy lifting by signing quarterback Jay Cutler to an extension, in addition to bringing back guard Matt Slauson, cornerback Tim Jennings and kicker Robbie Gould.

The Bears now need to turn their attention to three areas: their own free agents, unrestricted free agency and the NFL draft, with drastic improvement of the club’s struggling defense as the No. 1 underlying factor. In all, the Bears have 25 free agents they’ve got to decide whether to bring back, a group that includes key players such as center Roberto Garza, cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive tackles Henry Melton, Nate Collins and Jeremiah Ratliff, along with backup quarterback Josh McCown, linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive end Corey Wootton.

Limited salary cap space will be the main hindrance to bringing back some of their own, as well as any plans to improve by making acquisitions on the open market. Bears general manager Phil Emery admitted the club’s cap space will be tight, but added the team should still be able to improve the roster.

The club has ways to free up space, such as converting Cutler’s $22.5 million base salary for 2014 into a signing bonus it can prorate over the life of his deal or asking other veterans such as Julius Peppers, who counts $18,183,333 against the cap in 2014, to restructure.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider