Bears CB Draft Preview: Competition coming for Tim Jennings


Bears CB Draft Preview: Competition coming for Tim Jennings Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2015 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what draft day could have in store.

Bears pre-draft situation

Landing Antrel Rolle was a priority and signing the veteran safety represented a major upgrade even with Rolle’s best years behind him. Ryan Mundy was the Bears’ second-leading tackler last season and tied with Kyle Fuller for team honors with four interceptions. Between Mundy and Rolle, with Brock Vereen in the pipeline, the Bears have perhaps their best combo of experience and talent in the deep secondary in a decade.

Fuller was a certified hit with the No. 14 pick of the draft, flashing early with interceptions in the win at San Francisco and quietly playing beyond his rookie year and already is viewed as a foundation block in the secondary.

[DRAFT PREVIEW: Offseason moves lower LB need level]

“The way he played instinctually, as well as the physical skills, I saw a guy that improved as the season went on,” said coach John Fox. “He’s a guy that we’re excited about, have a good grade on, and looking forward to working with him looking forward.”

Less secure is the spot opposite Fuller, where Tim Jennings had eight pass breakups but went without an interception for the first time in seven years. “I think Tim will tell you the same thing: I don’t think he had one of his better years a year ago, No. 1,” Fox said. “I think he can play outside and play inside as far as experience. I think our biggest thing is to get him to perform better than he did a year ago.”

If he doesn’t, the Bears have added both depth or a possible replacement. They re-signed promising nickel back Demontre Hurst and corner Al Louis-Jean to two-year extensions and Alan Ball for one year.

Jennings was given a four-year deal worth $22.4 million, half of it guaranteed, coming off his second straight Pro Bowl season. But he turns 32 in December and will be under some roster pressure throughout this offseason.

[DRAFT PREVIEW: OL Rebound in 2015 a must but not via draft]

Bears draft priority: Low

The level of need, as with certain other positions (DL, OL), doesn’t completely mean that the Bears have what they need in this position cluster, only that it is well off the “critical” list it was on last year before the Bears secured Fuller. The Rolle signing projects to make Fuller a better corner as well as improve the entire back end of the defense.

The Bears can be expected to grab a corner or safety if a surprise is still on their board in Round 3. The ages of Jennings and Rolle aren’t a concern, and Rolle in particular is in that class of safety reminiscent of Gary Fencik and Shaun Gayle who were effective deep into their careers based on savvy and style of play.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans]

Keep an eye on ...

Quinten Rollins, Miami (Ohio)Relatively inexperienced but physical (5-11, 195) MAC defensive player of the year.

Eric Rowe, UtahLikely gone by the end of Round 2 but has ideal size (6-1) for CB.

P.J. Willliams, Florida State: Big (6-0, 195) physical corner likened to Charles Tillman.

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

Bears show interest in Tulsa pass rusher Trevis Gipson

It's early (extremely early) in the 2020 NFL Draft process, and the Bears' team needs between now and when their first pick (No. 43 overall) is on the clock are certain to change. The general consensus right now is that offensive line, tight end and quarterback will be early draft targets, but edge rusher can't be overlooked.

Leonard Floyd's failure to emerge as the pass rusher the Bears need to complement Khalil Mack is a bigger problem than GM Ryan Pace or coach Matt Nagy want to admit. In fact, Floyd's ineffective style of play could cost Chicago a chance at becoming a truly elite defense and potentially limit the astronomical upside Mack has as a generational talent.

If the Bears decide to pull the fifth-year option from Floyd, they'll have no choice but to attack the position early in the 2020 draft. It appears like they're doing their homework for that scenario, too.

Bears scouts met with Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson at length following Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice, an indication that the position is at least high enough on their wish list that extensive homework on pass rushers is being done.

Gipson helped his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and was an early winner among edge rushers at the game. His practice reps confirmed his tape; the dude knows how to get to the quarterback. He had eight sacks in 2019 and plays with a high-energy style that's certain to entice Chicago's coaching staff. He isn't an elite athlete, but he has an appealing frame (34-inch arms) and powerful hands.

Gipson began the week as a late-Day-3 prospect. He helped his stock and may have jumped a round or two along the way.

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

Bears' rookie class ranked 8th-best in NFL

The Bears didn't have much of a rookie class in 2019. Last April's draft produced just five picks, two of which didn't appear in a regular-season game for the Bears.

But the production of running back David Montgomery was enough to carry the rookie class to a top-10 ranking, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Bears checked-in at eighth.

The Bears have a strange class. They had only five picks, none before Round 3, with three of those five selections coming after Round 6. As a result, their expected return was low. Running back David Montgomery was really the only Bears' rookie to play significant snaps, and he managed to provide enough return from his third-round selection to land them at No. 8.

It's pretty remarkable that Chicago's 2019 rookie class — essentially, Montgomery — garnered this much respect from PFF. Wide receiver Riley Ridley showed signs of life late in the season and cornerback Duke Shelley will be given an opportunity to carve out a role on defense next season, but with running back Kerrith Whyte, Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark making no impact whatsoever (Whyte is no longer with the team), the 2019 class won't be remembered as one that laid a championship foundation in Chicago.

Sure, Montgomery has a chance to become one of the NFL's more talented starting running backs (he ended his rookie season with 889 yards and six touchdowns), but if Ridley and Shelley don't turn into legitimate contributors in 2020 or 2021, the class will go down as an epic failure for GM Ryan Pace.

Remember: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick because of the trade for outside linebacker Khalil Mack. That's a win for Pace, but it doesn't change the fact that he had five selections at his disposal and ended up with what appears to be just one impact player after their rookie seasons.