22 Starters in 22 Days: Cornerback

Leading up to training camp, JC will preview all 22 starters for the Chicago Bears on both sides of the ball – strengths, weaknesses and whatever lies in between. Today, we look at cornerback.

Projected starters: Zack Bowman, Charles Tillman
Even though the two names at the top of the depth chart have not changed, the Monsters of the Midway will feature a slightly different look at cornerback this season. Tillman is moving from the left side to the right side, while Bowman flip-flops from the right side to the left side. The coaching staff spent the entire offseason program telling the media that the change doesn't have any particular significance, but it's fair to speculate that Bowman is now viewed as the best corner on the team instead of Tillman, as most quarterbacks in the NFL are right-handed and, therefore, have an easier time throwing the football to the defense's left.

Projected backups: Corey Graham, Tim Jennings, D.J. Moore, Joshua Moore
The Bears are yet to settle on a primary backup in case either Bowman or Tillman goes down, and history has shown that both of them get banged up a little more often than they should. Graham would be the obvious choice since he started the majority of 2008 and has been in the system for three years, but with Danieal Manning still the starting strong safety, that means Graham is the nickel back and won't be getting as many corner reps in training camp. Jennings, a free-agent signee from Indianapolis, is a shrimp and doesn't fit the Cover 2 particularly well, so look for Joshua Moore, a fifth-round pick out of Kansas State, not second-year pro D.J. Moore, to potentially make an impact.

2009 Review
After playing just one game in 2008 before ending the season on injured reserve, Bowman broke out in a big way in 2009 and led the Bears with six interceptions. He also proved to be a sufficient tackler, which is mandatory for corners in the Cover 2, recording 66 total tackles and 59 of the solo variety. Tilllman ended up being an alternate for the Pro Bowl, and he was among the league leaders with six forced fumbles, but he dealt with more back and shoulder trouble because of his physical brand of play – he missed the finale at Detroit on IR.

2010 Preview
If the Midway Monsters have a first-time Pro Bowler ready to blossom this season, Bowman is perhaps the most likely candidate because he always seems to be around the ball and knows how to come up with the INT – the 6-1, 193-pounder has seven picks in just 17 career games. Now that he is playing the left corner position, he may be forced to cover the opponent's best receiver more often than he has in the past, meaning he can't afford to be overmatched by, say, Detroit's Calvin Johnson, which he was last year in Week 4 before Tillman took over in the second half and saved the day. While Tillman is a warrior and will give the defense everything he has for 60 minutes, he has been bruised and battered throughout his stint in the Windy City and appears to be on the down side of his career.


CB Zack Bowman
Scott Boehm/Getty

I'd much rather have ...
Nnamdi Asomugha and anyone in Oakland. If you look at Asomugha's totals from a year ago, they're far from impressive: 34 tackles, one interception and three passes defensed. That being said, Asomugha is the quintessential shutdown corner in this league, and the reason he doesn't pick off a lot of passes is because QBs simply don't throw the ball his direction anymore – nobody is ever open. Fellow starter Chris Johnson is nothing special, but 68 tackles, three INTs and 18 passes defensed is pretty good considering how much action he gets lining up opposite Asomugha.

But they're better than ...
DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers in Washington. Both Hall and Rogers are well-known names and were drafted with top-10 picks coming out of college, but neither has been especially effective the last few years. Hall is all sizzle and no steak, which helps explain why the Raiders once signed him to a $72 million contract but ended up dumping him only eight games later. Following an injury-plagued 2007, Rogers has just two interceptions the last two seasons, including getting goose-egged in 2009.

Confidence-o-Meter: 7.1 *
If both Bowman and Tillman didn't get banged up as often as they do, this number could have been closer to 8.0 or maybe even a shade higher. Bowman has Pro Bowl ability and could very well make it to Hawaii in 2010, while Tillman has been on the cusp of all-star status for half a decade. Still, Bowman got off to a slow start in 2009 because of a training camp hamstring pull, and Tillman seems to be playing in pain constantly. Both are ideal corners for Chicago's scheme, with their ability to cover short- and medium-depth zones and also provide run support. Nevertheless, if one of them gets hurt for any significant period of time, the reserves are questionable.

* Much like Ron Swanson from "Parks and Recreation" came up with a scientifically perfect 10-point scale for human beauty, JC has done the same with confidence in cornerbacks. 10.0 is Deion Sanders high-stepping toward the other end zone.


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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter 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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