June is the football feel-good time and the Bears, like just about every team, do. Some feel even better than others.
Cornerback Charles Tillman, who came in the last draft of the Dick Jauron era, has seen cornerbacks from R.W. McQuarters to Nathan Vasher to Ricky Manning Jr. to Zackary Bowman. Vasher went to a Pro Bowl (2005). Bowman led the Bears with six interceptions one season (2009).
No group has impressed him to the degree that this one has, however, a fact perhaps all the more remarkable because the Bears have added only backups (Kelvin Hayden, Jonathan Wilhite) on top of Tillman, Tim Jennings and D.J. Moore.
In my 10 years of being here, Tillman reflected, I think this is the best group of corners weve had in just overall talent. Now, theyre still learning the defense, but as far as a talent standpoint, I think this is by far the best group of talented young men weve had.
The Bears ranked 28th in passing yards allowed last season but were top 10 in third-down efficiency and 13th in passing yards allowed per play. They allowed 250 or fewer passing yards in eight games and more than 300 just twice, in wins over Carolina and Detroit.
Not surprisingly then, coach Lovie Smith bristled Wednesday at a question about the struggles of his pass defense in 2011.
Lets go over that again, Smith said to the questioner. You said last year, we did what now? Exactly, you said we did what? We struggled against the pass? I dont see it like that.
I mean, a few games maybe we had a little bit trouble with the pass. But I think we played the pass fairly well. And the rest of your question?
Most impressive single defensive play so far? Nickel back Moore, whose eight interceptions over the past two seasons are tied with Tillman for team high.
Moore jumped the throw on a third-and-short out pattern from Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett and was in Milwaukee before anyone caught up with him. That was followed Wednesday by another pick in 7-on-7 work.
The Bears added significant depth at cornerback this offseason with Hayden from Indianapolis and Wilhite from Denver. But Moore, until now primarily the Bears nickel cornerback, shouldnt be ruled out as a possible factor at one of the spots outside.
Hell tell you he can play any position on the football field, said Smith. Hes not a guy thats lacking confidence and I think he can. Hes got great quickness. As I said, great hands; plays the ball well. Theres a lot of things we look for on the outside he can do.