clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chicago Bears 2023 Position Battles: Cornerback is primed for a big improvement

In this 11-part training camp preview, we’ll go position by position examining the players on the Chicago Bears 90-man roster and their chances to make the team.

Chicago Bears Offseason Workout Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The development of the cornerback position on Chicago Bears should be an interesting one to monitor this season. One starter is a veteran in his contract year, the other starter is a second-round rookie, and the nickelback is looking for a nice sophomore jump in play after an inconsistent 2022. There should also be a fun battle among the reserves, with several young prospects looking to build off their playing time from last season.

Roster Locks

Jaylon Johnson, who turned 24 this April, has been a good football player during his three years in Chicago, but the big knock on him has been a lack of turnovers. In 39 games, he has one interception, one fumble recovery, and two forced fumbles. Head coach Matt Eberflus emphasizes turnovers from his defenders — it's the T in his H.I.T.S. philosophy, so that may be a reason the Bears have yet to extend Johnson.

Kyler Gordon was targeted a team-high 82 times by opposing quarterbacks a year ago, but this offseason, he's not being asked to learn two positions. He struggled as a rookie but started settling down toward the year's end. This offseason, he's been able to lock in on nickleback, and that will put him in a much better mindset compared to where he was a year ago.

"I wouldn't say overwhelmed, but it definitely was a thing during training camp because I was playing nickel, (and) corner, and I'd be with the ones, twos and threes," Gordon said via SI about last offseason. "I was feeling it all in my legs. It was a lot."

But the more he played, the more he learned, and the more he felt comfortable in the scheme and with his teammates.

"I felt like even in the season, even like midway and going to the end, it got just like slower and slower and slower," he said. “Just calmer and calmer. I would just see what I needed to see and not try to make every play and be everywhere and stuff like that. Just control myself."

Rookie second-round draft pick Tyrique Stevenson quickly ascended to the top of the depth chart this offseason, and he's been running with the ones ever since.

"He's a little bit ahead, I would say," head coach Matt Eberflus said via the team's site. "It seems more like a veteran than it does a rookie, which is kind of cool, to be able to watch that. He's very confident. I think the guys gravitate toward him. He's a likable guy because I think he does love football and he is competitive. I think he fits in well with Gordon and Brisker and Eddie and all those guys that are really competitive that like to grind it and like to practice."

Terell Smith, a rookie fifth-rounder, came on strong as a fifth-year senior, and he continued to flash at the East-West Shrine Bowl, where he was the best corner on the field.

A good bet to make it

Kindle Vildor has 22 starts in 44 games during his three-year career, and he proved to be a much better schematic fit in Alan Williams' defense in 2022.

On the bubble

The Bears opened the 2022 season with six corners on the roster, so there may be one spot for Josh Blackwell, Jaylon Jones, Greg Stroman Jr., and Michael Ojemudia to battle over.

Blackwell and Jones, two 2022 UDFAs, received a lot of playing time as rookies, and I like their upside more than Stroman and Ojemudia.