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updated: 4/12/2013 5:29 PM

Will Bears draft young corners for depth?

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  • Bears cornerback Charles Tillman led the NFL with 10 force fumbles last season, and he added 3 interception along the way.

    Bears cornerback Charles Tillman led the NFL with 10 force fumbles last season, and he added 3 interception along the way.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


Especially in today's pass-happy NFL, teams can't have too many cornerbacks with solid coverage skills, and the Bears are no exception.

Starters Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings both went to the Pro Bowl last season. Jennings led the NFL with 9 interceptions, and Tillman led the league with 10 forced fumbles and had 3 picks.

Kelvin Hayden, who moved into the No. 1 nickel back midway through last season, was re-signed, as was backup Zack Bowman.

But this is not a young group. Tillman is 32, Hayden will turn 30 during training camp, Jennings is 29 and Bowman will be 29 before the season ends. So an infusion of youth via the draft is a possibility.

At safety the Bears have depth and youth, but it remains to be seen if anyone on the roster is special.

In a rare occurrence of continuity, strong safety Major Wright and free safety Chris Conte, both 24, started opening day and every game until a hamstring injury knocked Conte out of the season finale. In the eight previous seasons the Bears had 54 lineup changes at safety, 30 at strong safety and 24 at free safety. During that time, 12 different players started games at strong safety and 14 at free safety.

Five-year veteran Craig Steltz, who has played in 61 games and started seven times, provides depth. More quality depth was added in the off-season with Arlington Heights unrestricted free agent Tom Zbikowski (27), who started a career-high 11 games for the Indianapolis Colts last season. Last year's third-round pick, Brandon Hardin (23), returns after missing his rookie season with a neck injury, along with Anthony Walters (25), who started his first NFL game last season when Conte was hurt.

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