Pro Football Focus has been running a series this offseason about the underheralded players on each team that probably deserve a little more respect than what they've actually been given. They only just now got to the Bears, and their selection for the Bears' "Secret Superstar" is a player that I've often gone after for not finishing enough of the interceptions that he could have gotten and who occasionally struggles in man coverages, but for what he does well...
It seems all too often in the NFL we judge players by what they can't do, rather than what they can. It may be true that Jennings is not at his best in man coverage and would struggle badly in that type of defense, but that isn't what the Bears run, so who cares? Jennings has been an excellent fit for the zone schemes that the Bears do run, and has been as good as Charles Tillman on the other side, but received none of the same recognition for it.
How good has Jennings been in PFF's eyes?
In 2010 he was our 16th-ranked CB in the league, and in 2011 he was 17th. In both seasons his coverage numbers were excellent, and combined he has allowed just 55.2% of targets for 11.5 yards per completion and a QB rating of 71.4 since he signed with Chicago. Last season he was one of only two starting corners not to allow a single touchdown, and though he only has three interceptions over the past two seasons he has added 10 more pass break-ups. Jennings was able to do that despite playing at LCB for the majority of his time in Chicago, 1,511 of his 2,069 snaps as a Bear. LCB is the open side for most (right handed) quarterbacks, and the side they most frequently target, usually to their top target. The Bears line up with Jennings, and not Tillman, usually manning that spot.
It took a benching after a bad game against Seattle and playing Zackary Bowman to get the Bears to realize what they had in Jennings, who got a two-year contract extension in March.
(H/T to DutchBear for linking this up in the FanShots!)