Training camp is open! And there’s a certain buzz surrounding the Chicago Bears as they prepare for the 2021 season with workouts and practices at Halas Hall. So with camp in full swing and the preseason approaching, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
• 2020 stats: 44 total tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 15 passes defended, 0 interceptions in 13 games; 54.9 grade from PFF (84th of 121 qualifying cornerbacks)
• 2020 stats: 20 total tackles, 1 tackle-for-loss, 1 sack, 4 passes defended in 6 games; 38.4 grade from PFF (120th of 121)
The New Guys:
This position group has seen better days. It doesn’t feel all that long ago when Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Bryce Callahan were locking up receivers both inside and out. But the past is the past. And the present has Fuller and Callahan in Denver, while Amukamara tries to make it in New Orleans. Meanwhile, in Chicago, the Bears brought in two new cornerbacks (Thomas Graham Jr., Desmond Trufant) to battle among a group of eight defenders who could be vying for two starting roles.
Don’t Forget About:
There is a battle brewing between Day 3 picks made by the Bears in consecutive drafts. Duke Shelley was a sixth-round pick in 2019. There was hope that he would be in a position to be the team’s starting slot corner by the time this year came around. But as Shelley enters Year 3 of being a pro, his role seems uncertain. One year after taking Shelley in Round 6, Chicago chose Kindle Vildor in the fifth-round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Vildor currently slots in as the team’s starting outside corner, per the first unofficial depth chart. But there is no designation as to whom the top slot guy will be. Shelley? Trufant? Someone else?
What to Watch For:
Seeing tweets about Mack Hollins scorching CBs at camp the last few days puts me in a place where the secondary is a primary concern. It’ll take a strong gut to stomach through some of these preseason battles if things get ugly. So perhaps keeping tabs on the waiver wire is something we should be watching for as we approach the regular season.
We Really Like:
Jaylon Johnson has CB1 potential and can’t wait to see how he goes about staking his claim to one of the most challenging positions in the game:
We Might Be Worried About:
Injuries for Trufant and Johnson kept them from playing full seasons last year. Unfortunately, the 2020 season isn’t the only one in which the injury bug has bitten either defensive back. If it strikes again, this group could be in trouble.
It’s something of a coin flip here. If Johnson and Trufant can stay healthy, and Vildor and/or Shelley can take a major developmental leap, then this position group might be better than I think it can be. But the Bears’ defensive backs are walking on thin ice. And their competition — Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyler Lockett, etc. — will be licking their chops.