Kindle Vildor embracing his second chance

The third-year cornerback is back in the mix in Matt Eberflus’ defense after getting benched last season. “A little bit ups and downs,” he said. “I learned from it, and I’m here now, stronger than ever.”

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Chicago Bears v Las Vegas Raiders

Cornerback Kindle Vildor (22) started 12 games for the Bears last season.

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

You need a short memory to play- -cornerback in the NFL, but you still have to have a memory. 

Kindle Vildor took his benching hard last year but also took it to heart. His -demotion after a series of breakdowns in the final 1:33 of a 16-13 loss to the Ravens at Soldier Field seemed like a defining moment for him — a nice find as a fifth-round pick from Georgia Southern, but he just couldn’t cut it as a starter in the NFL. 

Vildor started twice more last season — against the Vikings and Seahawks — after Jaylon Johnson went into COVID-19 protocol. But Vildor entered the 2022 season as an afterthought with a new general manager and coaching staff, especially after Ryan Poles used his first draft pick as a GM on Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon (39th overall) and signed Tavon Young in free agency.

But Vildor isn’t done yet. The third-year player survived the purge of the transition to emerge as a starter opposite -Jaylon Johnson, with Gordon in a high-profile role in the slot. 

“Last year was my first full year starting. A little bit of ups and downs,” Vildor said. “I felt like it was part of the process to me, the process of being a young -corner in today’s game — there’s going to be ups and downs. Just learning from it, looking at film and seeing what I did wrong. I learned from it, and I’m here now, stronger than ever.” 

Vildor still has a long way to go to prove himself. But he’ll be an interesting test case for the Bears’ defense under Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams. A player who faltered under the previous defense thriving in this one would be a pretty good indicator of an overall upgrade. So far, Eberflus’ scheme seems like a good fit for Vildor. But it’s still August.

“I like it,” Vildor said. “A lot of vision. They like us to have our eyes at the -quarterback at the last minute so we can make plays and have vision of the quarterback and man up to make plays. You just have to man up and lock your guy down. It’s going to be a good scheme for us. I’m excited. I can’t wait for Week 1.”

Playing for the first time in the -preseason after missing the first two games with an injury, Vildor made an impact in different facets of the defense. He stopped Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson for a three-yard loss on a second-and-one play in the second quarter. He also had a pass break-up in the end zone against former teammate Javon Wims late in the first half. 

“It was my first game back. I was just trying to show the coaches what I can do in game situations like that,” Vildor said. “Just happy to be out there, trying to make plays and flying around. 

“It’s always good to get that first play out there — making the tackle, getting that confidence, getting the butterflies out. Just trusting the coaches’ game plan. I like the scheme we’re running right now and the situations they’re putting me in. I’m ready to excel and show everybody what I can do.” 

Vildor said his big improvements from last season are “overall focus and paying attention to detail.” That has been a common theme of Eberflus’ defense and this coaching staff. It’ll make a difference for some more than others. But Vildor so far is a candidate to be a beneficiary. He feels like he’s a part of it again. 

“I feel like we looked good in those first two games, just me watching it from the sidelines,” Vildor said. “And [against the Browns] guys were flying around and making plays. We were up 21-0. We’re still working on the finishing part, and then it’s going to be a fun year. I can’t wait.” 

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