Tillman, Peppers earn honors for Bears

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Tillman, Peppers earn honors for Bears

They are on the outside looking in at the football goings-on this time of year but that doesnt mean the Bears are going unrecognized.

Cornerback Charles Tillman was selected not only to the first Pro Bowl of his career, but he also is one of the three finalists for the prestigious NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award that will be presented on the Saturday of Super Bowl week in Indianapolis.

Tillmans competition are San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk.

Walter himself won the award in 1977 when it was the Man of the Year award. The league renamed the award after Paytons death in 1999. Previous Bears winners have been the late Dave Duerson, Mike Singletary and Jim Flanigan, who shared the award with Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks in 2000.

The Payton MOY is the only NFL award that recognizes a player for his community service activities as well as excellence on the field.

Joining Tillman in Hawaii will be Julius Peppers after the league named the defensive end to replace Jason Pierre-Paul, who is in the Super Bowl with the New York Giants.

For Peppers this will be seven Pro Bowls and the first time since Richard Dent in 1984-85 that a Bears defensive end has gone in consecutive years.

Indications remain that running back Matt Forte will be making the trip to play, his sprained knee having checked out satisfactorily since the conclusion of the season. Forte is still without a contract.

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

After historically low turnover total in 2016, what can Bears do to get more takeaways?

Quintin Demps set a career high in interceptions last year by not doing anything different. And that’s the message he’s sending a defense that generated only 11 takeaways in 2016, tied for the lowest single-season total in NFL history. 

Demps went from picking off four passes in both 2013 with the Kansas City Chiefs and 2014 with the New York Giants to notching just one interception with the Houston Texans in 2015. In 2016, though, Demps intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and totaled 38 tackles. 

“Turnovers are like, it’s not something that you go get, it’s something you let come to you by doing your job first and then helping out,” Demps said. “And then you’d be surprised how they come to you by doing your job and being aware of when you can help somebody out. A lot of times when you get help is when you get picks and turnovers.”

The danger for a defense coming off a historically bad takeaway is sort of a whiplash effect, where there’s an over-emphasis on creating turnovers and not enough attention paid to, as Demps said, “doing your job.” There’s a fine line between being opportunistic and undisciplined.

“I tell my safeties all the time, we gotta tackle first,” Demps said. “Tackle first, don’t miss any tackles and then the picks are going to come. I promise you that.”

The Bears felt positively after signs of being more opportunistic as a defense during shorts-and-helmets practices in May and June, though if that was because of any real improvements or because the defense is usually ahead of the offense is hard to tell at this stage of the year. 

The offseason program was valuable for the Bears’ secondary in growing trust within a group that had — no pun intended — plenty of turnover after the 2016 season. The hope is that the offseason additions of Demps, Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper and Eddie Jackson will solidify the secondary and lead to something better than last year’s historically-low turnover total. 

“We’re still trying to build something, but the actual, real building happens in training camp because I think then you start to see the group start to get formed and yo know who’s going to go with the one’s, who’s going to go with the two’s, stuff like that,” Amukamara said. “So I think that starts to get formed. But I think with a lot of guys now, I think what that creates is competition and guys trying their hardest to make the team.” 

Bears Talk Podcast: How will the offensive line fare in 2017?

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USA TODAY

Bears Talk Podcast: How will the offensive line fare in 2017?

In this edition of the BearsTalk Podcast, JJ Stankevitz and Chris Boden discuss what should be a strength - the offensive line, and one member who has a lot on the line this season.

Plus, the guys pick some numbers for the 2017 season and predict whether or not the team or individuals will fall short or exceed them.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: