Inside Look: The Chicago Bears Cornerbacks

Inside Look: The Chicago Bears Cornerbacks
Cornerback Kyle Fuller #23 of the Chicago Bears runs back an interception against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

After 12 seasons as ‘the guy’ in the cornerback room for the Bears, Charles Tillman is no longer there.

Second-year Kyle Fuller and veteran Tim Jennings are the top two guys at cornerback. Free agent addition Alan Ball came over in free agency, while Demontre Hurst, Al-Louis Jean and Sherrick McManis all have chances to earn meaningful playing time.

Second-year man Terrance Mitchell and undrafted rookies Jacoby Glenn, Qumain Black and Bryce Callahan round out the unit.

Projected starters: Kyle Fuller, Tim Jennings

-Fuller is poised for a huge season under new Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio after grabbing four interceptions and forcing three fumbles in 14 starts in 2014. He showed plenty of promise with three interceptions and two forced fumbles over the first three games of his rookie campaign. He played through various injuries which was reminiscent of the old Tillman and is something that should earn him respect in Chicago and around the league.

-Jennings has 16 interceptions in five seasons with the Bears, but the 31-year-old failed to record one last season. He could be asked to play nickelback more often than not in the 3-4 scheme with Ball sliding in opposite Fuller. At 5-foot-8, 185 pounds it could make the most sense for him to be used against slot receivers rather than on the outside against the big receivers.

-He has excelled against bigger receivers over the years, but Fangio is going to put Jennings and the rest of his defenders in a position where they can succeed.

In the mix: Alan Ball, Demontre Hurst, Al Louis-Jean, Sherrick McManis, Terrance Mitchell, Jacoby Glenn, Qumain Black, Bryce Callahan

-Ball is an eight-year veteran, who has spent the last four seasons at cornerback after playing free safety from 2007-10 with Dallas. He made 22 starts in two seasons for the Jaguars and had a successful 2013 campaign with 15 starts, which includes two interceptions and a career-high 14 pass breakups. However, he only played in seven games in 2014 due to injury. Ball is a nice player and at $3 million on a one-year, prove-it deal he could be enticed to step up in hopes of one final payday.

-Hurst surprisingly emerged a year ago when he made 39 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 15 games, one start. He should compete for nickelback duty once again and could be used as a blitzer like he was in 2014 at times. Fangio should find a way to use the speedy Hurst in key situations.

-Much like Hurst, Louis-Jean played a good amount. He appeared in nine games, recording nine tackles and a pass breakup. In a Week 8 blowout loss in New England, he came in for an injured Fuller and finished with a career-high five tackles. At 6-1, he has nice size and if he can add some muscle he could be a legitimate playmaker for the Bears in due time.

-McManis was praised recently by head coach John Fox as he told the Tribune: “He’s been a guy that’s caught my eye. He’s adapted well to Vic’s defensive schemes and we’ll see where that goes.” The six-year veteran has been a great special teams player, but has yet to prove his worth as a cornerback in a couple opportunities over the past two seasons. He has a chance to be a key depth and rotational piece this season.

-Mitchell spent most of 2014 on the practice squad. The Oregon product could be on the outside looking in considering all three guys in front of him, Hurst, Louis-Jean and McManis are key special teamers. He could end up on the practice squad again this year.

-Both Hurst and Louis-Jean were undrafted players just like Glenn, Black and Callahan this year. All three are longshots for a roster spot, but one or two of them could be groomed on the practice squad.

Final Thoughts

Fuller is the most talented of this group and after excelling for the most part in year one he should be even better with Fangio coaching him up. Jennings has a chance to be revitalized in a versatile role while Ball will be counted on to stay healthy as the third guy.

Hurst, Louis-Jean and McManis are all promising players and can all earn roles on defense with impressive training camps.

Overall, the cornerback position is very similar to last season with Ball replacing Tillman in the group but not as a starter. If they stay healthy, this could be a better than expected unit. But the depth isn’t as impressive as year’s past.

Next up: Linebackers

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button to get all the latest Bears Backer articles sent to your inbox.

Make sure to follow Jake on Twitter, @Bearsbacker and on Facebook for up to the minute news about the Chicago Bears.

Leave a comment