Bears

Hub Arkush’s 2022 Bears training camp preview: Cornerbacks

Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson celebrates his touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 19, 2021, in Chicago.

Welcome to the 10th of our 12-part series as we get you ready for Bears Training Camp 2022 by looking at each position group on the depth chart, special teams and the new coaching staff.

We’ll bring you brief scouting reports with pluses and minuses for every notable player, how each group stacks up against the rest of the NFL, projected potential surprises and disappointments, the final 53-man roster and likely practice squad keepers.

Part 10 – Cornerbacks

There are numerous question marks to be sure, but the Bears’ cornerbacks may possess as much raw talent as any position on the roster.

Much like head coach Matt Eberflus with the linebackers, defensive coordinator Alan Williams has coached defensive backs for the past 23 seasons, so the promise here is something to be encouraged by.

Jaylon Johnson

Johnson has been impressive from Day 1 in 2020 and improving consistently since. He has excellent size (6-foot-0, 195), plenty of speed and excellent short-area quickness.

All-Pro receiver Cooper Kupp recently called him one of the best corners in the league already, and there’s no question he hasn’t reached his ceiling.

Biggest plus: He is as aggressive as they come and fearless coming up to hit or play the run.

Biggest concern: Johnson’s ball skills still need improvement with only one interception in two years.

Kyler Gordon

Gordon appears to be a Johnson clone for the other side. He’s perhaps half an inch shorter and actually a superior athlete.

Some scouts did note his technique still needs work in coverage, but every one of them raved about his athleticism, decision-making and explosiveness when he reacts.

He can play boundary, nickel, press, man and off coverages equally well.

Biggest plus: He loves to hit, and his athleticism shows up all over his tape.

Biggest concern: Even the best cornerbacks can take a beating as rookies.

Kindle Vildor

He’s been on a bit of a roller coaster since the Bears took him in the fifth round in 2020. Vildor made some impressive contributions as a rookie, and then earned the starting job to open last season. He lost the job but was improving again slightly toward the end of last season when given the snaps.

Biggest plus: He is a tad smaller but has almost all of the tools Johnson and Gordon do.

Biggest concern: He gets a bit passive at times, which can’t happen at cornerback.

Thomas Graham Jr.

Graham has more than enough to play nickel or boundary corner or even free safety at this level, but he lacks the dynamic traits of Johnson, Gordon and even Vildor. What he does have is great instincts and an impossible-to-coach playmaker’s mentality.

Biggest plus: May have the best ball skills of any of the Bears’ corners.

Biggest concern: Good-but-not-great measureables may cause him to struggle with No. 1 receivers and pure speed guys.

Tavon Young

Young is one of the NFL’s most talented nickels – the Ravens made him the highest paid nickel in the league with a $25 million deal in 2019 – but he is injury prone, missing basically all of the 2017, 2019 and 2020 seasons with two ACL injuries and a neck injury.

Biggest plus: He’s everything you want in the slot when healthy.

Biggest concern: Not a factor as a boundary guy.

Duke Shelley

He has some nice tools but is smaller than you’d like, strictly a slot guy, and his play has been up and down since he was a surprise sixth-round pick of Ryan Pace.

Biggest plus: Some coverage skills.

Biggest concern: He just doesn’t measure up to the rest of this group.

Lamar Jackson, Jayson Stanley, Allie Green IV, Jaylon Jones, BoPete Keyes, Greg Stroman Jr.

Stroman (5-11, 180) and Keyes (6-1, 202) are the only ones in this group shorter than 6-2 and less than or at 200 pounds, and only Stroman has significant NFL game experience. Green is a physical priority undrafted rookie free agent this year with a University of Missouri connection to Eberflus.


The skinny

Where they fit in NFL: League average until we know more about Gordon, Graham and Vildor.

Potential: The traits are there. If developed properly and realized, this could be a deep group.

Surprises: Both Johnson and Gordon reach their high ceilings, and there’s just something about Graham that teases special.

Disappointments: Gordon is slow to develop, none of the other youngsters can handle the mental challenges of the position, and Young can’t stay healthy.

Outcome: Johnson, Gordon, Young (if he’s healthy) and Graham feel like sure things with the rest all in a dogfight for two spots or only one if the safeties surprise. Green looks like a lock for the practice squad.


In case you missed it: Previous installments of our 2022 season preview series

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.