The news nearly couldn't be worse for the Bears to start off the 2009 season. Corner back Charles Tillman is out for at least four to 10 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his back.
Tillman is the best player in the secondary and leaves the Bears with a bunch of youth and underperforming players at the CB position. Veteran Nathan Vasher hasn't played up to par since he signed his contract extension. Beyond that there isn't much of a veteran presence with second year man Zach Bowman, third year man Trumaine McBride and rookie D.J. Moore looking to seize the chance to take Tillman's spot.
The move of Corey Graham to free safety will likely end until Tillman can come back healthy the Bears hope as soon as the last pre-season game or the opener against Green Bay.
On a positive note Tillman has missed training camp time before and had a good season before. But a back problem coupled with two surgeries on his shoulder really makes you start to question his durability.
Tillman has thus far avoided the injury wrath that seems to follow former Bear Mike Brown and current Dusty Dvoracek. However his injury problems seem to be nearly as frequent as those two.
Arthroscopic surgery is one of the least invasive surgeries going. A scope is inserted through a small hole for the doctor to perform the surgery through another couple small holes utilizing a camera to perform the operation. Thus the rehab and healing time favors the Bears and Tillman coming back in time to have an impact.
Danieal Manning has spent time at both safety and corner and with his superb athleticism he could prove invaluable in balancing out the depth chart until Tillman returns.
Nathan Vasher may perhaps be safe this year, but the heat on the hot seat upon which he sits just got turned up to HIGH. There is no underestimating the need for Vasher to return to form and earn the pay check for which he is being paid and has already been paid up to this point. Especially after demanding an early extension prior to the organization's policy of not negotiating until the season before a player's final year in a deal.
The key for the secondary will still be the performance of the safeties. Beyond the Tillman problem look for Graham to slide over to the starting spot and Craig Steltz to solidly lock down the starting spot at the free safety position. Though the Bears will lack a true center fielder type at free safety, the defense does not require a ball hawk back there.
The one gap defensive scheme the Bears utilize requires the safety to be solid in run support filling gaps and attacking the line of scrimmage. His responsbilities in a Cover-2 alignment are less than what they would be in other more risky open field schemes.