Today for the first time this offseason, the Chicago Bears are putting the pads on at Halas Hall, but with the way the team limits what the media can report on there may not be much substance coming from camp. We’ll do our best to pull info from the usual beat writers, plus some national guys are sure to leak some info, but for the most part GM Ryan Pace keeps things locked up.
In the next week we’ll be running down some training camp story-lines that interest us in a round table format here at WCG, and here’s today’s topic...
Who will be the starting cornerback opposite Kyle Fuller in the first game?
This one will come down to two, maybe three, different players; rookie Jaylon Johnson, three year vet Kevin Toliver II, and I don’t think we should be so quick to dismiss free agent pick up Artie Burns. EDIT: Burns is out for the year with an ACL tear.
I’ll give my take after checking in with my WCG teammates.
Aaron Leming: Despite the Bears just getting over 4 weeks of actual practices before the start of the season and Jaylon Johnson’s shoulder injury slowing his progress early in the off-season, I still believe he will be the Week 1 starter. Why? It’s simple. Why spend one of your valuable top 2 picks on a player that you don’t expect to contribute right away? That’s nothing against Kevin Toliver but let’s be honest here, Johnson’s ceiling and aggressiveness are a perfect fit for Chuck Pagano’s defense. Rip the band-aid off and let Johnson start out of the gate. Does that mean he won’t struggle? Absolutely not. He’s a rookie corner and most do struggle. Even so, Johnson was a first round talent and would have gone higher if it wasn’t for his late season injury.
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter: Jaylon Johnson. Unless Kevin Toliver balls out like we’ve never seen, or if something bad happens to Jaylon Johnson during camp, then I’d expect to see the later in with the starters week one. With that said, both DBs will see plenty of playing time anyway. Chuck Pagano will likely expand his use of nickel and dime looks in the secondary.
Ken Mitchell: Kevin Toliver, but he’s only there until Jaylon Johnson gets his reps in and shows he’s 100 percent healthy.
Jacob Infante: In the first game, I’ll go with Kevin Toliver. The Bears have had a tendency to keep their rookies out of the starting lineup out of the gate, only to immerse them into the lineup after a couple of weeks. It’s happened with Roquan Smith, James Daniels, Anthony Miller and David Montgomery since Matt Nagy took over as head coach, and my assumption is Jaylon Johnson will experience a similar fate. However, I do expect him to take over the starting job full-time by the end of September.
Robert Zeglinski: Lack of full participation and practice because of the pandemic won’t hold Jaylon Johnson back. Kevin Toliver is a nice depth piece to have, but that’s all he is: A depth piece. Johnson might endure more growing pains than usual but that shouldn’t hold his overall potential back. He’s a ballhawk. He’s savvy. He’s everything you want in a Day 1 rookie starter.
WhiskeyRanger: In game one? I’m going to go with Toliver. I’d be surprised if Johnson, as a rookie, coming off of surgery, in a pandemic impacted off-season with no pre-season games, is able to get up to speed quickly enough to unseat a guy who I feel is pretty solid at the position.
Robert Schmitz: I want to say Jaylon Johnson here, I really do, but given that DC Chuck Pagano recently described Johnson as still “limited” by his shoulder injury I have to give Kevin Toliver the nod for week 1. Similar to Roquan Smith in 2018, I expect the Utah 2nd-round pick to quickly earn a starting spot, but given that he only has 15 practices while simultaneously nursing a shoulder injury and acclimating to the NFL’s speed, I think it may take him an extra week or two to earn it. Toliver is a capable depth CB who I’m sure Pagano is comfortable deploying against the Lions, so ultimately Johnson shouldn’t need to be rushed into the starting lineup — when he’s good and ready, he’ll claim his spot confidently.
Sam Householder: Most likely, it’s going to be Kevin Toliver. In such a hastened and different offseason than ever before, it seems like too much to ask a rookie coming off surgery to start week one. I’d be a little hesitant to say that this is going to be a huge year for a lot of rookies around the league because there will be such a short window to a) get on the practice field at all and b) get up to the NFL game speed without a preseason.
Jack Salo: I believe the Bears will list Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine as the starting CBs. There will be plenty of snaps between three CBs, with the third spot (outside corner when Skrine moves to the nickel-back) occupied early in the season by Toliver, who will be overtaken midway through the season by Jaylon Johnson.
Bill Zimmerman: I think it ends up being Kevin Toliver. Jaylon Johnson will be starting outside at some point and probably sooner rather than later, but the first few weeks of the regular season he will see limited snaps, especially being that he’s still dealing with an injury during training camp. Artie Burns is on the roster in case Toliver can’t handle starting and can be the stop-gap until Johnson is ready. Buster Skrine is not an option as he will be starting inside because you can expect the Bears to be in their nickel package for the majority of snaps again this year. If Burns and Toliver both struggle, you could see Skrine bounce outside a little to help limit their snaps on gamedays.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: Even though Johnson’s shoulder surgery has healed enough for him to practice the last few weeks, it may slow his ability to get after it in full with the pads on. If he’s held back at all then it’ll be Toliver getting the nod week one, but if there are no restrictions then the rookie has the ability to be an opening week starter.
I am a little intrigued by former Steelers’ number one draft pick Artie Burns, who was running with the starters a bit at practice today. He’s only 25-years old, and while he fell out of favor in Pittsburgh he still has 32 starts in 58 career games. If he takes advantage of his second chance he could be a pleasant surprise.
EDIT: Burns is out for the year with an ACL tear.
Who will start opposite Kyle Fuller at corner?
This poll is closed