The Chicago Bears have ten cornerbacks on the current 80-man offseason roster, so it’s safe to say that at least four of them will be battling it out for a spot on the practice squad. Corner is also one of the few positions that has a starting spot up for grabs, making this position one to keep an eye on this training camp — if we were allowed to watch camp that is.
Kyle Fuller has made the last two Pro Bowls, and while his overall effectiveness in coverage may have declined from 2018, he’s still a damn good football player that has provided a physical presence in the Bears’ secondary. His passes defended and interceptions may very well go back if the Bears are able to get after the quarterback a bit more in 2020.
The stating spot opposite Fuller will be won this offseason as rookie Jaylon Johnson and third year pro Kevin Toliver II battle it out. I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Toliver in his limited experience, but it’s that limited experience that also makes me leery that he’s ready for a full time gig. With Johnson still slowly coming back from shoulder surgery Toliver may have the early edge, but the Bears coaches like what they’ve seen from the rookie too.
“He’s got great length,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said yesterday about Johnson. “He’s high cut. Moving around out there, he’s been a little bit limited because he’s coming off of a shoulder deal and stuff, but he’s got a bunch of dominant traits that should equate because he’s got a good work ethic. I think he’s passionate and loves football.”
Also on the lock list is nickleback Buster Skrine, who played 68% of the time on their defense last year. Nickle really is the new base defense in the NFL and having three good corners is a must.
Duke Shelley, last year’s 6th-round draft pick, managed to get action in nine games with 8 snaps on defense and 53 on special teams. Besides playing nickle, the team’s website says he backs up at safety, and I think that makes his spot secure.
A good bet to make it
Last year the Bears opened up with five cornerbacks — but in 2018 it was six — so if they stick to the 2019 plan everyone else is fighting for a place on the practice squad.
On the bubble
Kindle Vildor, a fifth-round pick this year, will likely find his biggest challenge for a roster spot from free-agent pick up Artie Burns. Burns is a former first-round draft pick from the Steelers that had 32 starts in 58 career games with Pittsburgh, plus experience on special teams, but Vildor is a draft pick.
Stephen Denmark, a seventh-round pick in 2019, has the size and athleticism to thrive as a corner, but his technique may still need more refining.
Oswego’s Michael Joseph has been around the Bears’ practice squad since 2018 after signing as a UDFA, and he finally made the game day roster for the final two weeks a year ago.
Shortened offseason rosters, no preseason, and an expanded practice squad will make for some interesting decisions come cut down day.