Leading up to Bears training camp in late July, Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2021 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes, it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2021 (or maybe he will be?), but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 21: Kindle Vildor
NFL Experience: Second season
Looking back: The Bears drafted Kindle Vildor in the fifth round of the 2020 draft. He played in every game, but the vast majority of that playing time was on special teams. Not until late in the year, after cornerback Jaylon Johnson went down with a shoulder injury, did Vildor earn significant reps on defense. He earned his first start in Week 16 at Jacksonville (he played 100% of the defensive snaps in that game), and also started the playoff game against New Orleans. Vildor had a career-high seven tackles in the playoff game.
“Kindle showed that he belongs in this league last year in the reps that he took,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said this spring. “So I think he’s going to have a chance to compete at various positions.”
Looking forward: With All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller now with the Denver Broncos, the Bears need another cornerback to step up. Vildor impressed this spring during OTAs and veteran minicamp. He had two interceptions in one practice. If veteran free agent signing Desmond Trufant has anything left in the tank, he likely will start the year at cornerback opposite Johnson. But if Trufant isn’t the answer, or if injuries derail his season again, Vildor will be among the cornerbacks battling for that starting position. Vildor also could be a promising candidate to take over the nickelback spot when the Bears use a fifth defensive back. With former nickelback Buster Skrine released, the Bears need to find someone to fill that slot as well.