2009 Position by Position Review: CB

After a disappointing 7-9 record in 2009, it's time to take a look back at the Chicago Bears and discover what went right and what went ridiculously wrong. Thursday, we cover the cornerbacks.

2009 Review
It wasn't that long ago when the Midway Monsters locked up both Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher with extensions, plus Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride were coming along as reserves, so the cornerback depth chart looked stacked.

But a lot has changed in a relatively short period of time, as Tillman's body keeps falling apart because of his physical style of play, Vasher is so bad he can't even get on the field anymore, Graham has come down with a case of Danieal Manning disease from all the shifting of positions and McBride spent all of 2009 on injured reserve. Fortunately, Zack Bowman started to live up to his potential and snared a team-high six interceptions, although fourth-round pick D.J. Moore – considered a steal that late by many draft experts – was a regular on the game-day inactive list. Things got so bad at the position that Woodny Turenne, an undrafted rookie free agent from Louisville, got some playing time down the stretch on special teams.

Once considered one of the better corner combinations in football, Tillman is overdue for a switch to free safety and Vasher is likely to be pink-slipped very soon.

Inside the Numbers
Only four players in the NFL picked off more passes this season than Bowman, and three of them (Asante Samuel, Darren Sharper and Charles Woodson) have been All-Pro. That being said, Bowman and Tillman combined for only 25 passes defensed, fewer than six corners (Woodson, Darrelle Revis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Leon Hall, Brandon Flowers and Johnathan Joseph) recorded all by themselves.


CB Zack Bowman
Getty Images: Jed Jacobsohn

Thumbs Up
While he struggled against some of the elite pass catchers in the league, namely Calvin Johnson of the Lions in Week 4, Bowman finally stayed healthy and could develop into a Pro Bowler in the near future. Credit Manning for playing well more often than not when lining up at nickel back, which is where he should be permanently and never again back deep at free safety.

Thumbs Down
Even though Tillman is a warrior each and every Sunday and strips the football away from opponents as often as any corner in the league, his coverage skills have diminished and he can no longer handle the enemy's No. 1 receiver by himself. The coaches also deserve some criticism here, as this outside-shoulder technique they continue to teach leaves the Bears vulnerable to wide-open slant routes over the middle.

2010 Preview
Coach Lovie Smith has always shot down the idea of moving Tillman to free safety since he has been the best cornerback on this team for quite some time, but that's not the case anymore with the emergence of Bowman.

The Cover 2 requires strength in between the hash marks, from the three-technique tackle to the middle linebacker to the free safety, so with Tommie Harris inconsistent, Brian Urlacher injured and free safety a revolving door of mediocrity, this scheme doesn't have a chance to operate the way it should. Because Tillman is known as a physical tackler and has a knack for forcing turnovers after the catch, skills that make him unique at the corner position, he should be able to make the transition to free safety with relative ease and might extend his career as a result. The challenge then, of course, is finding another starting corner to line up opposite Bowman.

Since McBride was lucky to make the roster, Moore showed nothing as a rookie and Turenne is raw as sushi, perhaps Graham can regain some of his confidence and do the job he did in 2008 subbing for a banged-up – and soon to be gone – Vasher.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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