Tim Jennings was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month on Thursday because of his superb play throughout the month of September. He has truly been one of the most dynamic players in the Bears’ secondary through the first quarter of the season, and he is my early season leader for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
If he can stay atop that list remains to be seen, but for the Bears, he has been a valuable asset and has carried the load in the secondary through the first four games of the season.
Tim Jennings has always been known as the small, quick corner with underrated tackling abilities. He is in his seventh year in the League (four with the Colts, three with the Bears), after starting two seasons for the Georgia Bulldogs in college where he excelled with six career interceptions.
Jennings was selected in the second-round (62nd overall) by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2006 NFL Draft. He didn’t make much of an impact his first year in Indianapolis, only playing 11 games, starting none, but he was around to help the Colts to a Super Bowl win. Yes, unfortunately the Bears were the team he won it against.
Jennings would only stay three more seasons with the Colts, finishing with a pretty average career (four interceptions, 125 tackles). Jennings hit the free agent market and was signed by former Chicago Bears’ general manager Jerry Angelo, and began competition across from Charles Tillman. Jennings had to win the starting role away from former Bears CB Zachary Bowman.
His tackling abilities showed up on film and were uncanny for a guy of his size. The serious knocks on Jennings were his jump ball skills, and his willingness to let his receiver up field and be covered by the safety. The Bears would get burned when Jennings would miss assignments, and they paid dearly for it.
Fast forward to 2012
Tim Jennings has started off 2012 in the strongest way possible. In his first two seasons with the Bears, he only notched three interceptions, and 17 pass defenses. In 2012, Jennings has already surpassed that number with four interceptions, and is quickly approaching his two season totals on passes defended with nine.
He's improved on all the essential areas he needed to improve on and has added more physicality up in press coverage, which has allowed him to make plays on the ball more often. He showed us in Week-1 his jumping abilities and athleticism with the incredible interception on Colts’ QB Andrew Luck.
Wouldn’t you know it; his former team.
Tim Jennings has been a major factor in the passing game, shutting down every match-up week in and week out. But let's not forget about the strong point of Tim Jennings’ game which is his ability to tackle. Jennings is a pure form tackler with an amazing ability to square up and make a solid clean hit.
He also is great at reading the quarterback’s eyes and the layout of the play and being able to make a play in the backfield. In this early season, he has five stuff yards, which doesn't seem like a lot, but considering he only has an average 10 stuff yards per season throughout his career it tells you how effective he has been behind the line of scrimmage. Jennings’ stat line blew up last year with 77 tackles, his career high. He has 16 this year, but is sure to finish close to that number again.
Tim Jennings has made the secondary a powerhouse with his electrifying play. The Bears were thought to need an extra reliable corner across from Tillman this offseason, but Jennings has proven to be even more than that.
His play is one of the main reason Bears find themselves at 3-1, and even though the level of play he's at right now is unlikely to stay consistent. It is good to know how capable Jennings is at that position, and how the combination of him and Tillman can be as dominant as they have been.
And yes, we can finally admit it: Jerry Angelo got one right bringing Jennings to Chicago. At 28, he still has his prime career playing days left, and he can be a valuable asset for the Bears for many years to come.