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Training Camp Battle: Kindle Vildor vs Tyrique Stevenson

Who will play outside cornerback opposite Jaylon Johnson? It’ll be decided in training camp between the veteran Vildor and the rookie Stevenson

Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The career of Kindle Vildor has been an interesting one for the Chicago Bears. Originally a fifth round draft pick out of Georgia Southern, he came in with a lot of hype, a lot which was unearned, as many Bears fans thought Vildor would be the nickelback the Bears desperately needed at the time.

Vildor didn’t get on the field much as a rookie. In his second year, he played outside and struggled mightily, regularly being picked on by quarterbacks and giving up several big plays. But in year three, Vildor played much better in the Matt Eberflus scheme. When you are coming from as low of a point that Vildor was in 2021, significant improvement in 2022 doesn’t necessarily equate to being good. Vildor was good at times, but still struggled with consistency and after dealing with some injuries in the middle of the season, his performance definitely dropped off. Was that drop off due to team adjustment or playing through injuries? That’s going to be an important question to answer coming up in training camp.

The NFL used to have a philosophy that rookies had to “earn” their starting spots and that they shouldn’t just be given to them. It was always a hollow gesture because everyone knew that the prominent rookies would take over starting duties eventually. Matt Eberflus does not subscribe to that policy. He inserted Darnell Wright at starting right tackle immediately in OTAs and didn’t pretend the job was Larry Borom’s. He also inserted Tyrique Stevenson into the starting lineup in the secondary above Kindle Vildor.

The job is Stevenson’s to lose. Not only did the Bears spend a second round pick on Stevenson, they traded up to get him. They expect big things from Stevenson and he clearly has the inside track to start. But the Bears, after a season when they were, well, let’s not use the “T” word, but they certainly didn’t put their best product forward, aren’t just looking at this season as another developmental season, the Bears are going to try to win football games this year. So if Stevenson is struggling in training camp or preseason, I think Eberflus will go with the best man for the job. If Vildor can outperform Stevenson, he can keep his job, but that won’t be easy for him to do.

Vildor had a five-game stretch last year where he allowed just 11 completions on 21 attempts for just 128 yards and zero touchdowns and one interception. That’s just 6.1 yards per attempt and a passer rating against of 51.3. Unfortunately, and injuries certainly could have played a part in this performance drop off, Vildor’s final two games, QBs were 8 for 10 for 125 yards and two touchdowns with him in coverage.

If Vildor proves in camp that he has become the player from that five-game stretch, he’s going to give Stevenson a run for his money. But if that stretch proves to be more of a fluke and that Vildor is more of the player from the end of the season (or the 2021 season), it won’t be too easy to beat him out.

Even if Vildor plays well, Stevenson can absolutely distance himself from the veteran if he shines. Stevenson’s skillset and abilities are at a level that if he puts it together early, there’s probably very little Vildor can do to win a starting spot.

Stevenson has the inside track to win this starting job and that’s absolutely how it should be, but with this being Vildor’s final year of his contract with the Bears, this is his last opportunity to prove he should be a part of this team’s future.