The Bears tried to convince everyone that everything was fine at cornerback as they headed into the season with Jaylon Johnson as their only sure thing after salary-cap trouble forced them to cut Kyle Fuller.
Now that their plan has predictably blown up, the Bears are trying to spin it, but it’s hard to argue with these disastrous results: They’ve allowed the sixth-highest completion percentage, eighth-highest passing yards per game, fourth-most touchdown passes and second-highest passer rating.
Only coach Matt Nagy would be audacious enough to defend this plan. General manager Ryan Pace might, too, but he refuses to speak to the media during the season.
One of the Bears’ most costly errors was assuming second-year cornerback Kindle Vildor was poised to break out as an NFL starter. The grounds for this projection were unclear. Vildor was a fifth-round pick out of Georgia Southern, the 19th player selected at his position, and barely saw the field other than on special teams until late in his rookie season.
It was quite a leap to mark him down as the No. 2 corner, and opposing quarterbacks have feasted on him all season. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai’s breaking point was when Vildor was primarily responsible for a blown coverage in the final minute that cost the Bears the game against the Ravens, and he has played minimally since.
“We know that being a young guy coming into that position, there’s going to be times where you’re gonna get beat, and how do you react to that?” Nagy said. “Throughout most of the season, he’s done pretty well.”
Incorrect. And that aversion to acknowledge reality by him and Pace is what got the Bears into this mess in the first place.
Vildor, who has been targeted 51 times, has allowed 35 catches for 541 yards and five touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference. That computes to a staggering 136.2 opponent passer rating, and, on average, throwing his way yields 10.6 yards. He has also committed six penalties.
Here are the other cornerbacks they’ve relied on:
† Artie Burns, a Steelers draft bust whom the Bears avoided playing for even one snap until giving him a shot in place of Vildor in Week 12.
† Marqui Christian, an opening-day starter who struggled so badly that he was benched for the next five games and has played only 30 defensive snaps since.
† Xavier Crawford, who played on defense in only two of the first 11 games and gave up two touchdowns in the loss to the Packers.
Christian and Crawford almost certainly would be relegated to practice squads if they were cut. That’s a safe bet considering that’s where both of them were most of last season.
There was no rash of injuries that created this situation for the Bears. All of this could’ve been foreseen.
The only deviations from Pace’s initial plan were Duke Shelley getting hurt in Week 11 and the failed experiment of taking a flier on Desmond Trufant.
Trufant arrived as a 30-year-old coming off an injury and allowed nearly a 69% completion rate the season before. He has been on two teams since and hasn’t played much. He wouldn’t have helped.
The cornerback situation has only gotten worse since getting destroyed by the Packers. Crawford is in the concussion protocol, and Burns is on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Considering that they’re already playing practice-squad-level players, they’re out of quality options. They added Chiefs 2020 seventh-round pick Thakarius “BoPete” Keyes, who spent a month without being on an NFL roster before the Bears called, to their practice squad Wednesday.
The worst part of this problem? It won’t be easy to fix. The best way to address it would be in the draft, but the Bears have only two picks in the first four rounds. As brutal as it has been to watch this season, it might not get much better anytime soon.