The Monsters of the Midway made a big splash in free agency signing defensive end Julius Peppers, but even though he should make the pass rush better automatically, that doesn't mean this team can just stand pat in the secondary.
Tuesday the Bears signed free agent cornerback Tim Jennings, who was originally a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Colts and played the first four years of his career in Indianapolis. In 53 games, the former Georgia Bulldog had 161 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 20 passes defensed. Playing mostly in the nickel package last season, Indy decided not to make a tender offer to the restricted free agent, which is why he was available to come to Chicago.
While Zack Bowman and Charles Tillman appear to be carved in stone atop the depth chart at corner, the players behind them are a concern because Nathan Vasher can't do it anymore, Corey Graham may still be in the doghouse and D.J. Moore showed nothing as a rookie in 2009.
For an insider's perspective on Jennings and what he might bring to the Bears on defense, BearReport.com consulted with Eric Hartz, the publisher of ColtPower.com on the Scout.com network:
Strengths: Good speed. Solid and capable of making plays on the ball. He's also a pretty good tackler in the run game and after the catch.
Weaknesses: This is a much longer list. Despite his speed, Jennings often gives a huge cushion at the line of scrimmage and seems either incapable or unwilling to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage. Part of that is the Colts' system, but we've seen other players like Jerraud Powers put more pressure on receivers than Jennings does. He's also a constant matchup target for opposing offenses because his size can be a liability against bigger receivers.
Hartz Says: The Colts and Bears play such a similar style of defense that this isn't really a surprising signing for Chicago. But most Indianapolis fans will no doubt be glad to see Jennings be the Bears' problem now. The large cushions at the line of scrimmage, whether they were unintentional or by design, got old fast. He's only 5-8 and struggled mightily against larger receivers, anyone from Andre Johnson to Randy Moss to Matt Jones, and was often picked on by opposing QBs. With the current crop of receivers in the NFC North, that trend could continue with the Bears. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and he does have some talent, but he certainly never turned into the corner the Colts thought he would be when they used a second-round pick on him.
JC's Take: Because coach Lovie Smith prefers bigger and stronger cornerbacks on the outside, adding "Tiny Tim" doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface.
However, with rumors swirling that Danieal Manning could be moved – yes, again – to strong safety, that means the Bears would be looking for a new nickel back. For all we know, Graham may be in the mix at free safety since Smith said that position was his No. 1 priority on defense heading into 2010. Jennings played a lot of nickel for a Colts team that ranked 14th in the league defending the pass last year, and although Indy doesn't play a classic Cover 2 anymore, the systems are still similar.
The addition of Jennings makes the continued presence of Vasher even more curious, as the one-time Pro Bowler is set to make $2.95 million this season but doesn't have a position where he can even compete.
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Scout's Analysis: CB Tim Jennings
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