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Professional

Dependable DBs anchor defense

The Bears’ secondary is coming off a record-setting 2012 season, due in large part to the ball-hawking and ball-ripping skills of cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman.

Tillman, 32, had one of the most productive defensive seasons in the league last year.

He started every game for the third season in a row and racked up 86 tackles, three interceptions, 16 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles and three touchdowns.

At 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, Tillman has the size and physicality to match up with the game’s best receivers. The Pro Bowler made a name for himself by ripping the ball out of opponents' hands with ease.

Jennings broke out last season, leading the league with nine interceptions. He had 21 passes defensed and one touchdown. He’s much smaller than Tillman, but showed a nose for the ball and has good closing speed.

Veteran Kelvin Hayden re-signed in March on a 1-year deal and will likely be the team’s nickelback, as D.J. Moore moved on to Carolina.

Competing to make the roster with their special-teams skills will be Sherrick McManis, Zack Bowman and Isaiah Frey, who was a seventh-round pick in 2012.

At safety, Major Wright and Chris Conte brought stability to the position, combining to start every game but one last season.

Wright was third on the team in tackles and also had four interceptions. He has good instincts and is physical playing the run.

Conte had nine passes defensed last season, but could show a better knack for making big plays.

Former Buffalo Grove High School star Tom Zbikowski joined the team this offseason and will be in a stiff competition with Anthony Walters, Craig Steltz and Brandon Hardin to be the top reserve safety. Hardin missed his entire rookie season with a neck injury, but has good size, speed and intangibles.

Tom Nelson and Cyhl Quarles round out the safety depth chart.

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