UA-59049186-1 2021 Chicago Bears Preview: Cornerback - Good if it Goes

2021 Chicago Bears Preview: Cornerback


Every year, there seems to be one position group that’s just teetering on the brink of disaster. Welcome to this year’s edition: cornerback, which features one legitimate starter and said legitimate starter is a second-year player. That player is Jaylon Johnson. Drafted a year ago out of Utah in the second round, Johnson turned in a quality rookie year and should only improve from there, hopefully procuring his first career interception while he does. Johnson turned in a strong camp, which is, hopefully, a sign that he’ll avoid the sophomore slump, because if that happens, hoo boy.

Kindle Vildor is listed on the Bears depth chart as the starter opposite of Johnson at the time of this writing and at this point, it becomes hard to argue with anyone who believes the Bears should have gone to whatever lengths necessary to hold on to Kyle Fuller, even if it meant having to cut someone like Jimmy Graham. A fifth-round pick a year ago, Vildor drew positive mentions during camp last year, but all returns since then suggest that the coaching staff was simply blowing smoke, which they could do since fans weren’t able to be at camp in 2020. Vildor’s college tape showed a guy with solid ball skills, but a lack of NFL-quality athleticism. Thus far in the NFL, we’ve seen the latter, but not so much of the former. Again, we’re talking about a current starter here. Your author did like him more than Duke Shelley last year, but Shelley figures to be a major contributor, too, so, yeah.

Duke Shelley figures to be the team’s primary nickel corner. A sixth-round pick in 2019 out of Kansas State, Shelley’s college tape showed a guy capable of contributing in both the run and passing games who likely would’ve been drafted quite a bit earlier, were he a few inches taller. The Bears’ official roster lists Shelley at 5’8, and guys listed at 5’8 usually tend to be around 5’6, thus Shelley was still available in the sixth round. In limited NFL action, Shelley has looked less than encouraging. In camp and the pre-season this year: ditto.

Artie Burns returns to Chicago after an ACL injury in camp kept him out for all of the 2020 season. A first-round pick out of Miami in 2016 by the Steelers, Burns has never really lived up to the hype he had coming out of college. After four meh years in Pittsburgh, the Steelers let him walk and the Bears took a shot on him. The aforementioned ACL injury ended his 2020 season before it started, but the team brought him back this year to give him another look. Has he looked great thus far? No. Has he looked good? Also no. Has anyone besides Jaylon Johnson looked good thus far? A third no. Has Burns at least looked less discouraging than Vildor or Shelley? Yes! As such, your author would like to see him start opposite Johnson. Whether it’s Burns or Shelley opposite Johnson, though, one thing is clear – Sean Desai has his work cut out for him with this group.

Twitter: @KSchroeder_312

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