Once before, in 2009, Zackary Bowman was installed as a starting cornerback. It didn’t end well.
The Bears finished 7-9 and went shopping in free agency for a cornerback, securing Tim Jennings from Indianapolis to start opposite Charles Tillman.
Now Bowman is starting again, this time opposite Jennings and taking the place of Tillman, lost for the rest of the regular season with a torn triceps. It is a second chance (actually third or fourth) for Bowman, who went to the Minnesota Vikings last offseason, was cut and returned to Chicago.
He’s being tasked with replacing a two-time Pro Bowl corner and playing on the other side from another in Jennings. He steps into a pass defense ranked 23rd in yardage behind a pass rush ranked 28th in the NFL.
“[We are] very confident in Zack,” said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. “He’s a veteran player. He’s played in some games and done a good job when he’s gone in… . Obviously when you lose a good player, a great player like Charles, you never want to see that. But unfortunately, injuries are a part of this game that we play and we coach, so it’s next man up.”
Bowman was the Bears fifth-round pick of the 2008 draft out of Nebraska. He flashed with six interceptions in his year as a starter but has had only one since then, against the New York Giants this year.
Coincidentally perhaps, that was his first start since 2011, accounting for 55 of the 135 snaps he has played this season. Knowing that he is starting this week “is a lot easier,” Bowman said, who has studied both the Baltimore Ravens and Tillman.
“The big thing I learned about Peanut is to just go out there and play football and have fun,” Bowman said. “Obviously just to go out there and do my job. That’s all I can do for our defense.”