When the 2011 season ended, only the wide receiver position was shot through with more uncertainty than cornerback. An already thin corps had only Charles Tillman under contract and with starter experience, plus nickel back D.J. Moore.
That was it.
Tim Jennings was an unrestricted free agent. Zackary Bowman had started but also was unrestricted and not in the Bears plans (he since signed with Minnesota). Corey Graham also had started but was unrestricted as well as only a backup nickel and a special-teamer.
That has changed. Dramatically, to the point where a weakness severe enough to be included in discussions using an early draft choice has now been transformed into one of the rosters deeper positions in terms of proven players.
In the span of less than three weeks, Jennings re-signed. Then former Indianapolis Colts teammate Kelvin Hayden, a starter at various times over his seven-year career, agreed to a one-year deal Thursday. Hayden comes with 47 starts between Indianapolis and Atlanta (2011).
Following close behind Hayden came Jonathan Wilhite, a five-year veteran and one with 17 combined starts in time spent with the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos (2011)
The result is a corner collection with 240 career starts and three players (Hayden, Jennings, Tillman) with more than 45. The top five all have been in playoff games and at least one conference-championship game, and all but Moore have been in Super Bowls.
The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.
It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.
Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.
Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.
Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.
On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.
Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.
Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams.
Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs?
The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD.
Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week?
You can take a look here and see where they landed.