Kyle Fuller - signed through 2018 - Fuller is one of the few Bears' players that head coach John Fox has mentioned by name in a positive light. Fuller has the physicality and technique to really thrive in his second season. As a rookie he was asked to shadow the opposition's best wide out on a few occasions and that experience will prove valuable in the new scheme.
Fuller started out 2014 like he would push for rookie of the year, but some injuries derailed his progress. He had 3 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles in his first three games as a pro. He added 19 tackles in those games and Pro Football Focus had him down for 8 "stops" in those games. They classify a stop as any tackle that constitutes an offensive failure, in other words, a tackle that prevented the offense from gaining any yards. He only added 8 more stops the rest of the season with just one more pick and one more forced fumble. In my opinion, playing hurt hampered his productivity.
Even though Fuller suffered an ankle injury in preseason, a hip pointer and broken hand in week 7, a re-aggravation of his hip the following week and a sprained knee in week 12, he played in all 16 games of the season. Hopefully his rookie year bumps and bruises will prove to be just a fluke and he'll stay healthy in 2015.
Among corners that had at least 50% of their team's snaps, PFF had Fuller way down at 69th with a -18.4 overall grade. After three games PFF had him at +5.9 overall, so they had him struggling throughout the year as well.
Even though Fuller was way down their list of graded corners, he checked in around the middle of the pack in a couple of other categories. He was 48th in percentage of passes caught when thrown in his area, and was 37th in passer rating against his coverage.
Tim Jennings - signed through 2017 - The plan for Jennings in 2014 was to slide to the nickelback spot when they went to a sub-package, but with Tillman going down in week 2, that plan was scrapped. We'll have to wait and see where the new coaching staff envision Jennings playing in 2015.
If Jennings stays on the outside he's still a productive player. He didn't have a 3rd consecutive Pro Bowl season in 2014, but PFF had him down as the best Bears defensive back with a +4.6 overall grade.
Charles Tillman - free agent - I think we've seen the last of Peanut in a Bears uniform. It's not because I think he's washed up, but because I think the new regime feels this is the perfect time to move on from him.
I suppose if Tillman checks out medically and the doctors can assure the Bears his 2nd torn triceps in as many years was just a fluke, then maybe the Bears offer him another 1 year deal.
Demontre Hurst - signed through 2016 - Hurst was just signed to a 2 year deal earlier today; he was an exclusive rights free agent.
I was surprised Hurst was able to give the Bears anything on defense in 2014. He started the season playing on the special teams, was cut following week 1, brought back to the team 10 days later, then finally wrangled his way into the nickelback role against the Falcons for week 6.
PFF had Hurst with a -1.6 overall grade, but the real stand out stat for him is his near league worst 131.0 passer rating against from QBs throwing at him. There was one positive about his play in 2014: was 2nd to Pat O'Donnell in PFF's special teams grades for the Bears with a +4.5.
He's a young player with room to grow, but the Bears won't stand pat thinking he's their nickelback for 2015.
Al Louis-Jean - signed through 2016 - Louis-Jean wasn't able to legally enjoy a celebratory adult beverage with his teammates last year until after week 6. He was one of the youngest rookies in the NFL last season and I really like his upside. He has the size and arm length to match up with big wide outs, but he needs to add some NFL strength to his frame.
He'll need to prove his worth on special teams in 2015 in order to keep a spot on the roster, because I don't think he's ready for an expanded role on defense quite yet. Louis-Jean appeared in 7 games at corner in 2014 and PFF gave him a -6.1 overall grade.
Sherrick McManis - free agent - McMannis has proven to be a good special teamer in the league, but he may want to explore his options to play more defense somewhere else. With the Bears signing Hurst today, that may have shut the door on bringing back McManis.
Terrance Mitchell - signed through 2015 - Mitchell was promoted to the active roster last October from Chicago's practice squad. He was an originally a 7th round draft pick of the Cowboys in 2014 out of the University Of Oregon. He'll be in camp, but he might end up on a practice squad in 2015.
2015 OUTLOOK - The Bears have a need at corner, but they may want to fill that need in free agency instead of the draft. Earlier today Sam looked at one free agent option in Chris Culliver of the 49ers. With former 49er defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now running the Bears' D, both Culliver and his 2014 San Francisco teammate, Perrish Cox, are options for the Bears. The best free agent corner on the market according to PFF is Houston's Kareem Jackson.
I went over a few draft options at CB back when you voted corner as the Bears' number three need.
Another mid round option could be UCS's Josh Shaw. He has the type of physical build teams are looking for at the position (6'1", 200), but if you remember, he was also the guy that made up a story about rescuing his drowning nephew, before admitting he jumped off a balcony to avoid a potential confrontation with the police.
It was a dumb mistake that he regrets, but one NFC area scout said,
"I know about the issues he had this year, but I did plenty of background work on Shaw and I had no problem giving him a passing character grade when I turned in my report."
Shaw played all over the defensive secondary and his high football IQ may outweigh his poor choice off the field.
What are your thoughts on the cornerback position for the Bears in 2014 and who are some free agent and draft options you like?