Vegas wouldn't have given odds on Tim Jennings and Charles Tlllman being the first two NFC Defensive Players of the Month of the 2012 season.
In August, it seemed more likley than one or both of the Bears' starting corners would be benched by this point in the season than they'd be the toast of the city and the league.
I'm as against putting stock in what happens in the preseason as anyone, but Tillman looked old in August. I remember the Bears' nationally-televised exhibition against the Giants, when the veteran corner looked more than a step slow and flat-out lost much of the game. While I'd already come to accept that Tillman's best days with the Bears were almost certainly behind him, I had my doubts that he could even make it through another season as a regular after watching that game.
And with Kelvin Hayden on board, it was easy to believe that Jennings, too, would struggle to maintain his starting spot. I thought Hayden would win the job in training camp, frankly. Even when that didn't happen, I thought one bad game would cause Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli, who have always had a pretty short leash with Jennings, to throw him back in the doghouse.
Instead of heading to the bench, Jennings and Tillman may both be heading to the Pro Bowl. Jennings ended October with a two-interception (including a pick-6), three-pass-deflection performance against Carolina, and he's the Bears corner who wasn't named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Month. That honor went to Tillman, who was lauded for his work against Detroit's Calvin Johnson a couple of weeks back. Tillman had two interceptions, two forced fumbles and five pass deflections for the month.
Awards like these don't mean a whole lot to me, though I'll say it's cool to see Jennings and Tillman get some national recognition for the way they've played. What matters is that the Bears are 6-1. That wouldn't be the case if not for the high level of play of Jennings and Tillman, along with safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte. What looked like the weakest part of the defense in the preseason has instead been a major strength.