The Chicago Bears cornerback room is a growing concern heading into training camp and into next season. Can the Bears’ secondary suffice without Kyle Fuller and with a new defensive coordinator?
The Chicago Bears need their cornerbacks to play well for them in 2021.
The Bears’ had one of the most effective cornerback duos in the NFL last season behind the seven-year veteran, Kyle Fuller, and 2020 second-round draft pick Jaylon Johnson.
Last year, Fuller allowed just a 55.4 percent completion percentage when targeted and 527 receiving yards which both count as his lowest marks in the past three seasons.
Johnson tacked on a terrific season too recording a 56.4 allowed completion percentage rate and 697 yards. He did not record any turnovers and missed 17 percent of tackles but he still had a reputable rookie outing.
#Bears CB tandem of Kyle Fuller and rookie Jaylon Johnson rank 1st and 2nd in the NFL in lowest completion percentage when targeted (min of 45 targets).
1. Fuller (46.6%)
2. Johnson (48.1%)
3. Joe Haden, PIT / Casey Hayward, LAC (50%) #DaBears
Credit: @pfref pic.twitter.com/U3O0clm5Ub
— Eric Szczepinski (@eszczepinski2) November 11, 2020
While Johnson is an excellent cornerback in his first year, he’s a better Robin to someone else’s Batman. This season, the cornerback room is without Fuller after the Bears let him go in free agency to clear cap space. Fuller was later picked up by the Broncos and his former defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio to round out arguably the best cornerback room in the NFL.
As for the Bears, NBC Sports Chicago analyst Alex Shapiro believes the cornerback room will look like Johnson, Desmond Trufant, Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley, and Thomas Graham. If I had to grade this cornerback room, I would grade it with a C- or a D+ grade. The room is well below-average and destined to be one of the Bears’ biggest weaknesses this season.
Let’s go through each member to see why the secondary might have problems this season:
As I mentioned before, Johnson is an outstanding cornerback for only being one year into his career. The bottom line for Johnson is that his perceived value was heavily based on the fact that Bears fans did not expect much from the second-rounder in his first season.
It was not until before just before week one did Bears fans find out that he would start across from Fuller on defense. He ranked sixth in the NFL in passes defended with 15 on the season and recorded a remarkable completion percentage allowed against his targets, allowing just 56.4 percent of passes to be completed.
He did miss three regular-season games with a shoulder injury which was also an issue in college. That will be something to keep an eye on for the season since the defense will need him for every game.
Don’t Get It Twisted.. The Noise Don’t Bother Me. Just want things put things into perspective
— Jaylon Johnson (@NBAxJay1) July 7, 2021
In my eyes, Trufant’s free-agent signing could be described as lazy. Bears fans should not be excited about Trufant and his guarantee to start week one.
Trufant has not played a full season since 2018 and his statistics do not bode well for his case as a starting corner. He allowed 68.8 percent of passes to be completed against him and a passer rating of 111. He also missed 20 percent of tackles with the Lions last season.
Trufant is an ineffective starting cornerback, even more so now that he has injury concerns. The only hope Trufant has is thriving elsewhere outside of Matt Patricia’s defense that even caused second overall pick Jeff Okudah to have a disappointing rookie season last year.
Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley
I paired Vildor and Shelley together because both of them shared a similar role in the Bears’ defense, filling in for the nickel position. Vildor allowed 70.6 percent of passes to be completed and two touchdowns in 135 defensive snaps. He did not miss any tackles on the bright side and made 17 of them on the season.
Shelley allowed 80.6 percent of his targets to be completed for 167 yards and one touchdown on the year. Like Vildor, he was an efficient tackler by only missing one and completing 16 on the season. Both Vildor and Shelley did not show a ton of promise in their game last season.
They both showed an apt amount of hustle on the field but they both struggled reading the offense. The upside is that they have a combined three years of NFL experience between them, giving them plenty of room for potential improvement.
Graham was selected in the sixth round of this past NFL draft out of the University of Oregon. He is a big corner, standing at 5-foot-11 and weighing just under 200 pounds.
Graham played three years at Oregon and opted out of his final season with the Ducks. He recorded eight interceptions, 182 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and defended 40 passes in college.
Graham is known for his athleticism and ability to stick on receivers in coverage which is an excellent attribute for the Bears’ defense because the Bears are in need of a slot corner.
With Johnson and Trufant expected to be lining up on the outside going into week one, Graham could have his hands on the slot in nickel packages if he can impress in camp. The only question remains, can this squad of young guys create an effective secondary?