Bears notebook: Backup CBs Kindle Vildor, Duke Shelley likely in lineup vs. Packers
The Bears will again go without first-string cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine. That could be problematic against Aaron Rodgers. That and more in this news roundup.
As if dealing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t difficult enough, the Bears go into their season finale against the Packers on Sunday without first-string cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine. Both were ruled out Friday with injuries.
That means a big part of the Bears’ fate hinges on whether fifth-round pick Kindle Vildor and seldom-used Duke Shelley are up to the task of covering receivers who need only an inch of space for Rodgers to find them.
It will be Johnson’s third game out since hurting his shoulder against the Texans and Skrine’s fourth consecutive absence because of a concussion.
Vildor, the No. 163 overall pick out of Georgia Southern, played one snap on defense the first 12 games this season before coming in for Johnson against the Texans on Dec. 13. In his starting debut against the Vikings a week later, the Bears curtailed his playing time in favor of using safety DeAndre Houston-Carson at nickel corner (Skrine’s spot) and playing Shelley on the outside.
Vildor played every snap against the Jaguars last week.
“He’s well aware of who we’re going against,” coach Matt Nagy said of Vildor facing Rodgers for the first time. “There’s gonna be plays that are made by [the Packers] on offense, and you’ve got to be able to regroup. He’s got to learn as he goes. That’s the growth of a rookie.”
Quarterbacks have completed 9 of 12 passes on Vildor for 102 yards and two touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference.
Shelley, who played eight snaps all of last season and six this season before taking over for Skrine, hasn’t done much better than Vildor. Over 17 targets, he has allowed 14 completions for 155 yards but no touchdowns.
Grabbing Graham pays off
It’s still up for debate whether the Bears should have shelled out $16 million over two years for tight end Jimmy Graham, but he has eclipsed the stats he put up for the Packers last season.
And with 48 receptions, 451 yards and a team-high eight touchdown catches, Graham has far outdone the collective 46 catches, 416 yards and two touchdowns the Bears got from their six tight ends last season. As he heads into a great opportunity to stick it to the Packers on Sunday, he also has been invaluable behind the scenes.
“When you have time in this league like he does and you’ve played in big games and played for successful teams, you rely on that,” Nagy said. “He’s a valuable asset not just because of who he is as a player but how he practices. His GPS [speed-tracking] numbers are crazy good in practice in Week 16. He’s rolling right now.”
Graham has 10 catches for 117 yards and three touchdowns in his last three games.
Ready to roll
Aside from Johnson and Skrine, the Bears’ injury report was mostly clean after practice Friday.
There are some big names on the list — some designated questionable — but all are expected to play. That includes wide receiver Allen Robinson (hamstring), tight end Cole Kmet (shoulder), safety Tashaun Gipson (neck) and special-teams star Cordarrelle Patterson (knee).