The Chicago Bears could not have asked for much more to go right for them at the cornerback position in 2012.

Tim Jennings was re-signed to a two-year contract following a late-season benching in 2011 and he responded with production that even he didn’t anticipate. Jennings, known for slippery hands in the past, wound up leading the NFL with nine interceptions, the second-most in franchise history.

Charles Tillman continued to play at an elite level on the wrong side of 30 and both cornerbacks wound up being starters in the Pro Bowl, the first time one team has had both starters at the position in the game since the Cleveland Browns sent Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield in 1988.

Realistically, Jennings has already outplayed the $6.6 million, two-year contract he signed last March even though he triggered a $1 million escalator that will push his 2013 base pay to $4.25 million. He is set to return and so is Tillman after another strong season, giving new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker some core players on the back end even if both are entering the final year of their contracts.

Tillman scored three touchdowns to move past Mike Brown for the most defensive scores in franchise history with nine. Tillman had three interceptions to give him 33 for his career and place him third behind Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37). More impressively he forced 10 fumbles in 2012, tying him for the most in a single season since 1991 with defensive ends Jason Taylor (2006) and Osi Umenyiora (2010). Tillman now has 39 forced fumbles in his career, more than any other player since 2003, and since 1991 he and Brian Dawkins are the only players with 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles.

Certainly the play of the starters played a role in the decision by coach Marc Trestman to keep defensive backs coach Jon Hoke as a holdover from Lovie Smith’s staff. Hoke is considered a strong teacher and he’s gotten results since arriving in 2009.