The readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team: CORNERBACK

READJACK.com presents…
The readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Team
September 27, 2009
: CORNERBACK

Peanut Tillman, seen here celebrating his GW OT INT TD VS DET in 05. (That was fun.)
Peanut Tillman, seen here celebrating his GW OT INT TD VS DET in 05. (That was fun.)

LEFT CORNER-Charles Tillman
RIGHT CORNER-Walt Harris

In contention: Jerry Azumah, Walt Harris, Jeremy Lincoln, R.W. McQuarters, Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Donnell Woolford

We have reached our halfway point. Seven announcements made, seven yet to be, and the most compelling disagreements and arguments thus far are right here before you at the cornerback position.

One, at least, has no arguments at all: Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman, our starting left corner.

A second round draft pick in 2003 out of Louisiana Lafayette, Tillman made an immediate impact. After starting the season as a backup to McQuarters and Azumah, the rookie Tillman was elevated twice, first above Azumah and then above McQuarters. He capped off his rookie year with the spectacular Randy Moss pick, and ended the season with four interceptions, twelve defended passes, a sack, a forced fumble, and 79 tackles, good for second on the team behind Urlacher.

Walt Harris picked off 15 passes during his six seasons with the Bears.
Walt Harris picked off 15 passes during his six seasons with the Bears.

An injury in 2004 cut Tillman’s season in half, but he regained his form in 2005, starting all fifteen games in which he played and helping the Bears to a division title. Since returning from his 2004 injury, Tillman has played and started in 59 of 64 possible games, along with all four playoff games. He has been the team’s number one corner since late in his rookie year, banging with the likes of Moss, Plax Burress, Torry Holt, Marvin Harrison, Steve Smith, and Donald Driver, and one of the team’s best all-around defenders, as well as a contributor on special teams with a knack for blocking punts. He is the Post-Ditka Bears leader in interceptions (20) and fumbles forced (15, tied with Alex Brown), and trails only Urlacher, Briggs, and Mike Brown in tackles. When the dust has settled on his NFL career, our man Tillman may very well end up the greatest cornerback in Chicago Bears history.

This next selection will be explained by readjack.com All-Bears Post-Ditka Committee Chairman Jack M Silverstein

While Tillman is an obvious choice, I was the biggest and loudest critic of our second starter during his time with the team. From 1996 to 2000, Walt Harris could do no right in my eyes. As far as I was concerned, he got beat on every deep route and blew every assignment. But slowly, over the latter stages of 2000 and then during the 2001 season, I came to appreciate Harris for his physical play and professionalism. He is the kind of player—and cornerback the kind of position—that I just could not appreciate as a youngster. I thought every corner should be running picks back like Deion, but as I have matured I have realized just how difficult the cornerback position is, how susceptible it is to easy criticism on touchdowns that may not be the fault of the corner (like when Bears safeties failed to cover over the top against Steve Smith in the Carolina game or on Reggie Wayne in the Super Bowl), and how valuable physical corners like Tillman and Harris are.

Donnell Woolford was a Pro Bowler in 1993.
Donnell Woolford was a Pro Bowler for the Bears in 1993.

As the only two corners in the PD era to earn Pro Bowl bids, Nathan Vasher and Donnell Woolford were both considered for the starting spot opposite Tillman. Vasher is second to Tillman in interceptions, but much of his success came in the two playoff seasons when the defense was at its peak, and in his rookie year of 2004 when he was the primary nickel back. Vasher’s slump over 2007 and 2008 is due in large part to injuries, (he missed 20 games), and of course if the concern with Vasher is that he is only as good as the D around him then he would be a terrific starter on what is effectively the best of the Bears defense. But if Vasher will be improved by the ferocious front seven on the RJ AB PD Team, the same can be said for Harris.

Woolford started all 56 games he played in the PD era, including two 16 game seasons in ’93 and ’94. His 101 tackles in 1993 are a season high for PD era corners (Tillman’s 85 in 2005 is second), and he was the starting corner on the ’94 playoff team, a D that finished 3rd in the NFL in pass defense. A terrific player…but Harris is our man.

Nate Vasher capped off a Bears win over Green Bay in 2005 with this 45-yard INT TD.
Nate Vasher capped off a Bears win over Green Bay in 2005 with this 45-yard INT TD.

Committee member Jeff Whitaker makes the case for Vasher: My vote for best corner would be Vasher. I know that he is washed up now, but he was the best the Bears had seen for about 3 years.  I don’t think people called his name much because he just eliminated his side of the field (nobody would think about throwing his way).  We always heard Tillman’s named called because QB’s always threw to his side.  Also, Tillman does not tackle well.  He is one of the best at causing fumbles, but sometimes he forgets to tackle.

Coming Wednesday, September 30th: the cornerback’s sworn adversary and loyal mirror…

And, because you deserve it…

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