Training camp is scheduled for July 28, and for the first time in 18 years, the Chicago Bears won’t be in Bourbonnais. And because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans won’t be allowed to attend practices at Halas Hall, either. With camp approaching, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
• 2019 stats: 3 interceptions, 12 passes defended, 82 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 62.5 grade from Pro Football Focus in 16 games
• 2019 stats: 0 interceptions, 5 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 48 tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 2 QB Hits, 59.8 grade from PFF in 16 games
Jaylon Johnson, Artie Burns, Tre Roberson, or Kevin Toliver II
• Johnson’s 2019 stats: 2 interceptions, 13 passes defended, 1 tackle-for-loss, 36 total tackles in 13 games (University of Utah)
• Burns’ 2019 stats: 0 interceptions, 0 passes defended, 8 tackles, 61.1 grade from PFF (10 games with the Steelers)
• Roberson’s 2019 stats: 7 interceptions (including 2 pick-sixes), 41 tackles in 16 games (Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian football League)
• Toliver’s 2019 stats: 0 interceptions, 2 passes defended, 13 tackles, 51.4 grade from PFF (12 games)
• Sherrick McManis, Duke Shelley, Kindle Vildor, Michael Joseph, Stephen Denmark, Xavier Crawford
What to Watch For:
The competition for the CB2 gig is arguably the most interesting non-QB position battle. It’s a field that features a rookie with a ton of upside (Johnson), a young player on a “prove it” deal (Burns), a CFL standout (Roberson), and an undrafted free agent (Toliver) with minimal starting experience trying to climb the ladder. In a traditional camp, I’d clear my schedule to watch these guys duke it out. As it stands, it’s still a fascinating battle. We’re talking about a position that will start opposite of a boundary receiver. Depending on how a team lines up, that could be Davante Adams, Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, or Adam Thielen. And that’s just the guys in the division.
We Really Like:
Watching the evolution of Kyle Fuller since the start of the 2017 season has been a treat:
Fuller went from being on the cusp of the cut list before the start of the 2017 season to being a two-time Pro Bowler and 2018 first-team All-Pro. It’s a remarkable ascent considering his uneven play in his first two years, which was followed by his third year being wiped out by an injury. Still in his prime, Fuller figures to maintain his spot as a top tier cornerback.
We Might Be Worried About:
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Bears’ schedule, these are the receivers Chicago’s corners have to deal with in 2020:
• Davante Adams
• Kenny Golladay
• Marvin Jones Jr.
• Adam Thielen
• Julio Jones
• Calvin Ridley
• D.J. Moore
• Will Fuller
• Michael Thomas
• Emmanuel Sanders
• A.J. Brown
• D.J. Chark
• Cooper Kupp
So, yeah, whoever wins the CB2 competition will have their work cut out for them on a weekly basis this season.
Since the start of the 2017 season, Fuller has come up with 12 interceptions and 55 passes defended en route to establishing himself as a darn good corner in this league. The 2019 season wasn’t as good as his breakout 2018 campaign, but he still showed the skills and ability that make him a tough customer. It’s just that there are questions elsewhere on the depth chart.
Did we mention that the starter opposite of Fuller is a question-mark? Because that starter will either be a rookie, someone who played in Canada last year, a 2016 first-round pick on a “prove it” deal, or an undrafted third-year player looking to prove himself. Buster Skrine is a serviceable slot cornerback, but could be overmatched if teams tried harder to isolate him. Sherrick McManis is ol’ reliable in a pinch, but ended last season on injured reserve.
I like the Bears’ cornerbacks room. It’s just that I feel as if I would like them more once the position gets settled.