By Laurence Holmes-
(CBS) Most Bears fans are pretty comfortable with Charles Tillman at one corner spot. For 9 years, Tillman has been a very productive player. Finding him a consistent partner on the other side of the field has been the issue.
Last year, the Bears were so convinced that Zackary Bowman was the answer that they moved Tillman from the left corner to the right. It didn’t work. Bowman wasn’t as stout in run support as the Bears wanted, so Tim Jennings replaced him. He’s started ever since and doesn’t have any intention of giving the job back.
Can you be that competitive and still be a good teammate? Apparently, yes.
“Honestly, me and Zack worked out this offseason together. Just to kind of work on some of our weaknesses. Just to come out here and know it’s a competition.” Jennings said.
Jennings finished 6th on the team in tackles with 66 tackles, including 2 for loss. He was reliable in the run game and wasn’t a disaster against the pass. The problem was that he only had 1 interception and there were times when Jennings would fall for the pump-fake. This spring he wanted to improve on that weakness.
“I worked on a lot of man-to-man coverages and techniques.” Jennings said.
Jennings knows that he is a good fit in Cover-2, but it’s a thin line between being good in the system and being defined by the system.
“First of all, I don’t even consider myself a Cover-2 corner.” Jennings told me. “I consider myself a physical corner. I think you have to be a physical corner to play in this style of defense.”
Other Notes from Saturday’s practice:
-Johnny Knox continues to sit out of practice with a stiff back. He said because it’s the pre-season the Bears are being cautious with him.
-Dane Sanzenbacher is officially this year’s camp “hero”. He’s caught just about everything thrown his way and found himself working with the 1st team. He didn’t look overwhelmed either.
-Mike Martz was in Canton for Marshall Faulk’s Hall Of Fame induction. Honestly, the offensive players looked relax. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad…
-Keep an eye on Henry Melton. Melton is still getting frist team reps at the 3-Technique spot (The Tommie Harris position). He’s had to deal with a bunch of double-teams. So I wanted to know his approach to beating the doubles. “I’m trying to stick my head in between them and just explode into it. There’s no way around it. You can’t baby it. You gotta go out there an fight it.” Melton told me.
-Devin Hester flipped a ball to the fans. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to keep the balls, so the Bears asked for it back. (Insert Family Night joke here).
-LB Brian Iwuh stood up Marion Barber in the hole on an inside run, it was the biggest collision of the day.
-Roberto Garza was with the 1st team at C. For the most part, Garza’s shotgun snaps have been pretty good (a little low), but he did miss on one of them towards the end of the day that had Jay Cutler scrambling. Chris Spencer is still with the 2nd team.
-On Friday, Dan Bernstein and I got into a discussion about the center position and whether the Bears would keep Garza there just because he’s more familiar with the system and the line calls. Would they put Garza at a right guard and still let him make the line calls? How hard would it be?
Tom Thayer was nice enough to give me a few minutes on the subject. Here is what #57 had to say.
“It’s not that hard to do. Everyone has to know all the calls. Each guy should be saying it to himself anyway.” Thayer said.
It should only take Spencer a couple of weeks to catch up to what the calls would be. If he were a rookie prospect, then it would be tougher, but Spencer’s experience in the league is a plus. Most protections have a general direction and then lines adjust from there. As complicated as Martz’s scheme is, Spencer should eventually slide right in.
My concern was relaying the message down the line. If it’s the center making the call, the other linemates are equadistant from him. If Garza is making the call at the right guard spot, it makes it that much more difficult for J’Marcus Webb at left tackle to get the call. Thayer said it isn’t that big of a deal.
“Everybody knows the protection from the huddle. If it changes at the line, getting the new call is pretty easy.” Thayer said.
Before moving on to other topics, Thayer offered me this simple nugget for pass protection and blitz pick up.
“A linemen should never get beaten inside. That’s your first repsonsibility. Then you work to outside. Then if there’s time, you help out your teammates.” Thayer said.