The Chicago Bears today snatched up corner back Tim Jennings from the Indianapolis Colts and signed him to a two year deal. Most Bears fans are wondering what the Bears exactly got in Jennings, is he a legitimate nickel option or is he a player who could potentially push for a starting job, thus making Charles Tillman an option at safety?
The short answer based on the research I've done is no, Jennings isn't exactly a player who is going to push either one of the Bears starters, and the Bears might be scared with the idea of having to make him a starter if Tillman is injured. Rated by Football Outsiders as one of the top-5 worst CBs in the NFL Jennings has essentially been a disappointment throughout his NFL career. A former second round pick Jennings is probably best slated as a nickel back at best who should be matched up with the quick speedy slot receivers.
For more specifics on what Jennings actually brings to the Bears I sent out a quick e-mail over to my counterparts over at 18to88.com, the Indianapolis Colts blog on the bloguin.com to find out their opinion of Jennings. This is verbatim their opinion on Jennings and a look inside how Bears fans should potentially feel about his arrival in the Windy City:
Tim Jennings is a hard worker. In 2007, he was one of the worst corners in the NFL and caused universal groans from Colts fans as a nickel back. As soon as he entered the game on third down, you could be sure he would give a 10 yard cushion to all receivers even on third and 5. In fairness, he came in the game in nickel situations, but was often put on team's second WR due to his speed. He did a terrible job covering those guys, but at least it was often against solid competition. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have named Jennings one of the worst Colts of all time.
Due to constant injuries in the Colts secondary, Jennings started most of 2008 and managed to improve consistently throughout the year. By the end of 2008, he was no longer awful, and just a little below average. He did show a penchant for coming up with some big plays, however. 2008 went a long way to redeeming his reputation.
He was slated to be the Colts' #3 corner in 2009, but was passed on the depth chart by two rookies in training camp, meaning he shouldn't have seen much action. Unfortunately, all four corners ahead of him battled some injuries, so once again Jennings saw a lot of playing time, especially as the third corner. Colts fans weren't surprised the Colts didn't tender him, as he's basically no better than a fourth or fifth corner. Overall he's been disappointing considering he was a second round pick.
Strengths: Good speed, good tackling ability, some modest playmaking ability.
Weaknesses: gives WAY too much cushion, slow to adjust to game situations.
If Tim Jennings is your dime corner, you are thrilled. If he's your nickleback, you'll grumble. If you have him in your starting lineup base package, then you probably have a terrible secondary.
So there you have it a look into the signing of Tim Jennings from the experts over at 18to88.com. Bears fans can probably best hope that a change of scenery will work out best for Jennings or that the Bears keep Danieal Manning as the primary option at the nickel back spot.
There is some upside to Jennings with his speed, tackling ability to go with his experience. Possibly one of the most impressive aspects of his career that should not be overlooked is the fact that the Colts' secondary set an NFL record for fewest touchdown passes allowed in a season with only six touchdown passes allowed. They did this with Jennings as the primary starter on the team in 2008 and that level of improvement should not be overlooked.
He seems to be a legitimate Cover-2 corner and may be considered a well coached player given one time potential defensive coordinator candidate Alan Williams has been his coach throughout his tenure. The emphasis here is that the Bears could not afford to ignore the need for depth and experience in the secondary. Jennings provides that and with some better pressure on the QB from the front four hopefully strengthens the Bears' pass defense.