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CB battle: The best will play

Tim Jennings sixth on the Bears in tackles (66) and third in passes broken up (nine) last season. Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- It's too early to handicap the battle at cornerback, according to Chicago Bears secondary coach Jon Hoke.

"Best players play," Hoke said. "Whoever is playing the best will play."

If the Bears stand pat with their roster, Tim Jennings and Zack Bowman appear to be the two likely candidates to compete for the starting cornerback job opposite veteran Charles Tillman. Bowman burst onto the scene in 2009 picking off six passes -- the fourth-highest total in the NFC -- in only 12 starts. But after being elevated to left cornerback the next offseason, Bowman lost his starting job to Jennings in Week 4.

Jennings promptly made the most of the opportunity, finishing sixth on the team in tackles (66) and third in passes broken up (nine).

"I think we got a great group of guys who work hard," Hoke said. "Zack has plenty of talent, he loves to play football. He had a couple of things go wrong, a couple of bad breaks early in the year, and we gave Tim a shot. Tim played well. You couldn't say, 'All right Tim, we're going to go back.' He earned his job.

"As long as we make sure the players know the best players play, and everybody earns a position ... they're fine with it. They see the tape, they are all smart guys. Tim was playing well, so that's kind of where it is right now. So he ended up the starter."

When the Bears reported to camp late last week, Jennings opened up on the first team, while Bowman ran with the second unit. That fact, however, means little this early in training camp, considering the Bears don't release an official depth chart until right before the first preseason game, Aug. 13 against the Buffalo Bills.

"We got four weeks now for it all to shake out," Hoke said.