Development will be key for Chicago Bears at cornerback in 2021

Sep 20, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Giants running back Dion Lewis (33) rushes the ball against Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson (33) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears entered the offseason with a major issue: Too many needs and too few resources. General manager Ryan Pace had over-invested in the defense, which led to a depleted offense. The Bears were also limited on salary cap space, making it hard to address any position on offense without poaching from the defense. The Bears did poach from the defense by releasing All-Pro CB Kyle Fuller, ending a run that lasted seven seasons in the Windy City.

To replace Fuller, the Bears added veteran Desmond Trufant on a one-year, $1M deal this offseason. Chicago now hopes that second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson can develop into CB1 for the foreseeable future. Besides Johnson and Trufant, the Bears have a number of unproven commodities including Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley, Thomas Graham Jr., and Tre Roberson.

Both Vildor and Shelly were with the Bears in 2020 and received some playing time. Roberson was injured throughout last season while Graham Jr. enters the fold as a rookie. Cornerback can be considered the weakest position on the Bears defense but there is also plenty of potential.

“We’re excited about developing some of these guys right now,” said defensive coordinator Sean Desai on the Bears official Youtube page. “We like the volume and depth we got there. We got to play football.”

One name to keep an eye on as a potential surprise starter is Vildor, who was a fifth-round pick for the Bears in the 2020 NFL Draft. Despite playing just 13 percent of the Bears snaps as a rookie, the potential Vildor displayed was clear and as he enters year two, he could play either on the outside or in the slot for the Bears.

“Kindle showed that he belongs in this league, last year and the reps that he took last year,” Desai said. “So I think he’s going to have a chance to compete at various positions. We’re going to have a lot of competition at the nickel as well. We’ve had guys that have played there in games.”

Besides Johnson, the Bears’ CB competition is wide open at this point. There is no guarantee that Trufant starts week one simply because there are too many bodies but not enough reps to go around that will make the Bears’ CB decision even harder.

Sometimes, creating additional competition is simply a way for coaches to continue pushing players to further develop players’ skillsets. The Bears are doing the exact same, trying to push younger players to get the best out of them, showing a young room that nothing is given in the NFL, rather everything is earned.