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Saturday Spotlight: Kindle Vildor

Throughout the 2021 NFL season, we’ll spotlight a Bears player in a weekly column. This week, we’ll take an in-depth look at Cornerback Kindle Vildor

NFL: AUG 14 Preseason - Dolphins at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Name: Kindle Vildor

Position: Cornerback

Number: 22

Age: 23

Time with Bears: 2nd Season

The Past:

“Rodgers has some pressure, steps away. Now throws on the run...Vildor had his hands on it...could not haul it in.”

Kindle Vildor gets better every year he plays the game, and it’s noticed.

Six years ago, going into his senior year of high school, the now-23 year old cornerback was deciding between smaller schools such as Georgia State and Tulane. Ranked as a three-star recruit by MaxPreps and 247Sports, he attended the Cam Newton 7v7 camp and was named defensive MVP, but still wasn’t on national radars as much as others.

With little national rankings to garner attention from larger schools, he was likely to stay in-state in Georgia. Ultimately, he landed with Georgia Southern, to play for coach Tyson Summers and the Eagles.

He avoided the redshirt his first year with the program, but saw very limited action, recording stats in just 3 games. With senior cornerback Darius Jones Jr. graduating after the 2016 season, Vildor worked his way into the starting lineup for his sophomore season. He turned in an impressive 20 tackle, 3 INT season stat line, despite the team itself going 2-10 and firing their coach midway through the season. Down the stretch he was especially impressive, recording interceptions in back-to-back games against South Alabama and Louisiana.

In his junior season for Georgia Southern, Vildor established himself as one of the most elite defensive backs in the country, taking on larger receivers and winning jump balls despite his 5’11” frame.

Vildor finished his junior season with 42 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 4 INTs, and 12 passes broken up, an impressive stat line for a player who was low-ranked in the recruiting portal a few years prior. He was named first-team All Conference within the Sun Belt for the 2018 season.

South Alabama v Georgia Southern Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

The young cornerback entered his senior season as an established collegiate athlete and leader on the Georgia Southern Eagles, but now he had to prove to NFL scouts that he was ready for the bright lights.

He did not disappoint.

2019 was a highlight reel for Vildor, with tape showing him breaking up well-thrown passes, ripping jump-balls away from larger receivers, and landing the “Peanut Punch” which Bears fans are so familiar with. Despite missing 2 games due to an ankle injury, Vildor turned in a 27 tackle, 3.0 TFL, 2 INT, and 6 pass breakup season. Even more, he was a leader on the Eagles team which took on a very difficult schedule, facing three top-25 teams, all of whom we’re undefeated going into the matchup.

In 2020, he got the call. After running a 4.44 20-yard dash, Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears decided they needed some young fast talent at defensive back, and made the pick.

With the 163rd pick (5th round) in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select: Kindle Vildor. Cornerback. Georgia Southern.

Originally projected as a nickel cornerback due to his size, he was assumed to be behind then-starter Buster Skrine and backup Duke Shelley, at a position where special teams ability is the placeholder on a 53-man roster. Vildor did in fact crack the 53-man roster, and it wasn’t even at nickel back.

Vildor can cover the field.

With injuries hampering the Bears secondary this past year, Vildor was asked to step in and play multiple positions, and like he’s done his entire career, he got better every time he touched the field. Against the Texans, 2 solo tackles. Against the Vikings, 4 solo tackles. Later against the Packers, 2 solo tackles and a pass breakup. This all according to ESPN stats.

He was everywhere in the Bears playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, logging 7 solo tackles and giving the Bears coaching staff reason to trust the young cornerback going forward.

The Present:

This past offseason, the Bears cut ties with 2x Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller, due to a number of reasons, not least of which was the previous transition tag which made him unreasonably expensive this year. Poor cap management aside, the Bears signed former Lions Pro-Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant this past offseason, and it was assumed that the experienced vet would take on a starting role in this secondary.

Come cut day, it was the veteran who was shown the door, and the second year pro Kindle Vildor who was welcomed into a starting role in this defense. Former safeties coach Sean Desai was promoted to defensive coordinator after Chuck Pagano retired, and Desai should be all-too familiar with Vildor’s skillset.

Vildor is listed as a starter in the depth chart, and despite a plethora of questions at the position, not least of which is the shallow cornerback position, Vildor will be handed a list of responsibilities on defense which will give him the opportunity to prove that all the work has paid off.

At the end of the day, in his own words, he’s just ready to “go out there and play ball.

The future:

Vildor is on the second year of his four-year, 3.6 million contract which is expected to have him in the Windy City until 2023. With his track record of ascending every opportunity he’s given, it’s fair to expect him to establish himself as a mainstay starter on this Bears defense.

Looking back on the Bears 2018 season, the pass rush was aided by excellent coverage downfield, leading to plenty of so-called ‘coverage sacks’ and interceptions based on quarterbacks rushing due to pocket collapse. It will be required of Vildor to cover for longer than he’s ever been asked to, so the Bears pass rush can either get home and sack to quarterback or force an pass which he can break up or pick off.

If this defense can resurge to elite territory, then Vildor will need to take a lesson from Eddie Jackson and Danny Trevathan, and out-perform his draft position. Time to pick off some passes, young blood.

Week 1 prediction:

2 solo tackles, 1 pass defense