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Friday, November 1, 2013
Packers must beware of Charles Tillman

By Rob Demovsky

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No defensive back in the NFL has forced more fumbles in the last decade than Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, and no one knows that better than the Green Bay Packers.

Lest they forget, all they need to do is ask James Jones.

Charles Tillman
Green Bay is game planning for Bears CB Charles Tillman, who has a knack for forcing fumbles -- including this one in the team's Sept. 13, 2012 game.
The Packers receiver was a rookie in 2007, when Tillman got him twice -- on consecutive series no less -- in a 27-20 loss to the Bears.

“That was a while ago, though,” Packers receivers coach Edgar Bennett said.

But it should serve as a reminder of what kind of damage Tillman can do, especially to an unsuspecting young receiver.

Since he came into the league in 2003, Tillman has forced 41 fumbles. Only Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis, with 43, has more during that stretch. And Tillman is the only one in the top 12 on that list whose primary responsibility isn’t to rush the quarterback. Eleven of the top 12 are either defensive ends or outside linebackers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

If Jones’ knee injury keeps him out for a third straight game on Monday night against the Bears, the Packers will once again rely on a couple of young receivers -- second-year pro Jarrett Boykin and rookie Myles White -- to team up with veteran Jordy Nelson in their three-receiver sets.

“They’ve got to learn from that,” Bennett said. “You turn the tape on, and you see guys doing it the right way, being fundamentally sound as far as how they’re carrying the football, being smart in certain situations with the football, and we’ve got to apply that knowledge and put it to good use. If we do that, then we’ll have some success in that area.”

Bennett is a stickler for ball security. He learned the importance of it as a player, when he lost playing time early in his career as a Packers running back because of fumble problems.

The Packers have had just one fumble by a receiver this season -- Jones against the Washington Redskins in Week 2. And even that was something of a fluke when he tried to reach out for the end zone and lost the ball. It hit the pylon, which made it a touchback.

“Edgar is as good as it gets in staying on those guys about ball security,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I’ve never seen any coach stay on his group the way that he does."

And Tillman should heighten that ten-fold.

As good as former Packers cornerback Charles Woodson was at forcing fumbles, he has less than half as many as Tillman over the same time period. With 20 since the start of 2003, Woodson ranks tied for 15th.

Bennett often picked Woodson’s brain about his mindset when it came to forcing fumbles and helped apply that to his coaching.

“It comes down to being fundamentally sound,” Bennett said.

When asked whether Tillman does anything different to create fumbles, Nelson said: “He’s just better at it.”

But then Nelson went on to note Tillman has a knack for punching straight at the ball.

“You can tell he works on it because he hits the ball every time, and it will just pop right out,” said Nelson, who has not fumbled since Week 16 of the 2010 season. “You know they put an emphasis on it. They probably work on it all the time. He’s got plenty of years doing it and has been successful.”

But he’s never gotten Nelson.

“Not that I know of,” said Nelson, whose 2010 fumble is the only one of his career on offense.

And the Packers would like to keep it that way.