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updated: 6/13/2012 9:19 PM

Better Bears' offense seen as big boost for defense

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  • Wide receiver Brandon Marshall's at Bears minicamp this week even has the defense buzzing with excitement.

       Wide receiver Brandon Marshall's at Bears minicamp this week even has the defense buzzing with excitement.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

The new and improved Bears offense has overshadowed the defense in the off-season.

But it also has benefited the defense, according to veteran cornerback Charles Tillman, who is coming off his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

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Wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Eric Weems and Devin Thomas along with running back Michael Bush were added to an offense that flashed elite ability in a 7-3 start, scoring 30 or more points in six of those games behind quarterback Jay Cutler and Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte.

Add in the new recruits, and it gives the defense a lot to deal with in this week's minicamp, even with Forte absent.

"I love it," Tillman said. "It's making us a lot better with Earl (Bennett) in the slot, Devin (Hester) in the slot; and with Brandon, I think Jay has a pretty good arsenal, a pretty good selection and then add in Eric Weems.

"I think that makes us more versatile in the receiver position."

All the better to prepare the Bears' secondary for the high-scoring, pass-happy attacks of the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions in the NFC North.

"The one thing I can say about Brandon is it's like game day every day," Tillman said after another day of going head to head with the 6-foot-4, 230-pound three-time Pro Bowler.

"Every play I feel like I'm getting that game-quality competition. He's a competitor, I'm a competitor, and I need that. It makes me good and it pushes me, and I think it pushes him as well."

Coach Lovie Smith offered unsolicited praise of the secondary Wednesday, following the second of three days of minicamp practice.

"Coming off a Pro Bowl year, you can't wait to play that next year," Smith said, "and we have some good things in mind with some of the things we're going to do with (Tillman).

"(Cornerback) Tim Jennings has had as good a camp as anyone we've had on our team throughout the off-season. He's made a lot of plays, things we asked him to improve upon. I feel like he's really worked to do that."

But Jennings will have to hold off a challenge from unrestricted free-agent pickup Kelvin Hayden, an eight-year veteran and longtime starter in the league.

Nickel corner D.J. Moore led the Bears with 4 interceptions last season, 1 more than Tillman, Brian Urlacher and Major Wright who, along with Chris Conte, will go to camp as the starters at safety.

"I feel pretty good about our secondary," Smith said. "They've had an opportunity to work against different receivers.

"Getting a chance to practice against a guy like Brandon Marshall every day, especially for a guy like Charles Tillman, (helps) get him ready for the big guy in Detroit (Calvin Johnson)."

The secondary will struggle to improve on last year's No. 28 ranking in passing yards allowed without a better pass rush from the line, where first-round pick Shea McClellin is expected to have an impact at defensive end.

"With what I've had a chance to see him do, he can move well," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's got really good movement (skills); really good speed. He's got nice range; his size is fine.

"He's a real hungry guy, and he's very smart. I know he's tough. Now we'll get the pads on him (in training camp). That determines everything. But I believe he'll come out and do a very nice job. Everything you look for, it's there."

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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