Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Cornerback: Perrish Cox (6’0, 195), Chris Culliver (6’0, 195), Dontae Johnson (6’2, 200), Jimmy Ward (5’10, 193), Carlos Rogers (6’0, 199)
Fangio rotates his coverage schemes between press man and a cover 2/3 zone. The Bears are familiar with the cover 2 zone schemes as they have been running them for the last ten years, but press coverage is something the Bears haven’t done recently. It will be a welcome change to those fans who are sick of the 10 yard cushions the Bears have been giving under Mel Tucker. Press coverage does require a different type of corner though, preferably bigger, stronger corners than the league average. The Bears have a few guys who fit that profile well and some others that don’t fit at all.
Kyle Fuller (6’0, 194): Had an up-and-down rookie year, but when healthy Fuller was very good. He played through injuries most of the year and was also matched up with opponents #1 WRs which is a lot to ask from a rookie corner. I think Fuller has the potential to be a lock down defender eventually. Good health and some talent around Fuller will certainly help his development this season.
Charles Tillman (6’1, 196): Fangio seems to prefer big corners who can challenge WRs at the line of scrimmage and then drop back into zone coverage. That scheme fits Tillman to a T if he is healthy… Tillman recently tweeted something that makes me think he could be coming back to the Bears this season. Peanut is one of my favorite Bears ever, so I hope he’s back. I think he’s a great fit for Fangio’s scheme and would love to see him end his career in Chicago. His knowledge would be invaluable for the Bears young corners.
Al Louis-Jean (6’1, 187): Was forced into playing much earlier than the Bears planned due to multiple injuries in the secondary. Louis-Jean barely played in college due to injury and a coaching change, but showed flashes of being an impact corner in the preseason and in limited action last season. He did get picked apart by Tom Brady, but as a raw 20-year-old in his first NFL action he did as well as could be expected. I think ALJ has the potential to develop into a starting corner and he’s a good fit for Fangio’s aggressive scheme.
Demontre Hurst (5’10, 183): Took over as the Bears slot corner the 2nd half of the season and flashed starting-caliber ability. Hurst is very aggressive which should endear him to the Bears new coaching staff and is also a big hitter despite a smallish frame. He’s a restricted free agent, but hopefully the Bears bring him back and give him a chance to build on his solid second half in 2014.
Brock Vereen (5’11, 199): As expected, Vereen struggled in run support as a safety last year. He showed flashes of being competent in coverage and is probably best suited to play slot corner instead of safety. With Fangio preferring safeties who are good against both the run and pass, Vereen just isn’t a good fit. If the Bears keep Tim Jennings and Hurst, than Vereen may be relegated to just a special teams player, but if Jennings is let go Vereen could back up Hurst in the slot and help out on dime coverage units. Either way Vereen will have to show value on special teams to earn a roster spot this season.
Sherick McMauns (5’11, 196): Sort of a wildcard as the Bears haven’t given him a chance to play much corner. It’s partially McManus’ fault as he keeps getting hurt. He has good size for a corner, 4.5 speed, and showed good ball skills in college (5 INT as senior). He’s a free agent so he may be gone anyway, but if the Bears new management team brings him back it could be a sign that they believe in his coverage ability.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Jennings (5’8, 185): Fangio’s 49er teams didn’t have a corner shorter than 5’10 on their roster the last few seasons and Jennings seems like a bad fit on paper for Fangio’s aggressive press coverage scheme. The Bears just re-signed Jennings for 4 years before the 2014 season, so they are probably stuck with him. Jennings is coming off his worst season since joining the Bears, which hurts his trade value. It’s possible they could move Jennings into the slot as the old coaching staff talked about before Tillman got hurt last year, but I thought Demontre Hurst played well enough late last season to earn the job. It’s possible the Bears could just take the salary cap hit and release Jennings.