The cornerback position might be the Bears' most inexperienced one on this defense heading into the 2021 season. This offseason saw Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine become salary cap casualties, and the team also decided to part ways with special teams ace Sherrick McManis. That's a combined 27 years of experience, 175 pass deflections, and 31 interceptions that walked out the doors of Halas Hall. While that’s a blow to this team, they still have some talent in the form of eager young players, with a couple of veterans mixed in. Here are the cornerbacks on the Bears' roster after the second preseason game.
He earned a collegiate reputation as a playmaker and carried that over the NFL as a rookie last year. The former Utah standout went from landing the nickel corner spot, to becoming the starter opposite of the since-departed Fuller. In 13 games last season, Johnson totaled 44 tackles and 15 pass deflections. Although he missed the final three games with a shoulder injury, Johnson established himself as a force against both the run and the pass. Now he’s one of the leaders of this defense.
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With all of the offseason departures, Vildor moves up a spot on the depth chart. As a rookie last year, the Georgia Southern alumnus appeared in all 16 games with one start. He recorded 17 tackles and one pass deflection in the process. Entering his second pro season, Vildor looks to make his case for getting either that second starter spot or the nickel corner spot.
This nine-year veteran was brought in on a one-year, $1,75 million deal to be the salary cap-friendly replacement for Fuller, and he’ll get the opportunity to start opposite of Johnson based on his experience. In eight NFL seasons, he has amassed 349 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 6.0 sacks, seven quarterback hits, 83 pass deflections, and 14 interceptions. The only issue with Trufant is that he hasn’t played a full season since 2018 due to injuries. The inability to stay healthy is what ended his tenure in Atlanta (2013-2019) and made his stop in Detroit (2020) very brief. But if Trufant can stay healthy in Chicago, he’ll be a strong addition to this defense.
Like Vildor, Shelley also moves up the depth chart this season. This will be his third year in the league after the Bears selected him in the sixth round of the 2019 draft, but like Vildor again, Shelley also has limited experience (16 tackles, pass deflection, 20 career games). You can expect both players to compete with one another.
This former Steeler also has the experience required to snag one of the coveted corner spots on this team. In his four years in Pittsburgh (2016-19), Burns racked up 149 total tackles, 27 pass deflections, and four interceptions in 58 games (32 starts). He joined the Bears last year but tore his ACL during the preseason. Now healthy, Burns looks to make his mark on this defense.
Thomas Graham Jr.
The Bears are very high on this sixth-round draft pick (228th overall) out of Oregon who is capable of defending both the pass and the run. Like Johnson last year, the Bears see plenty of potential in Graham. Especially after he accounted for 143 total tackles, 10.5 TFLs, 32 pass deflections, eight interceptions, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in three seasons with the Ducks (2017-19). He opted out of last year due to the pandemic and declared for the draft.
A career practice squad player to this point, Roberson is laser-focused on landing a roster spot for 2021. A former college quarterback at both Indiana (2011-13) and Illinois State (2014-15), Roberson switched positions in order to better his chances in the pros. After two years on the Minnesota Vikings practice squad (2016-17), Roberson spent two years with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL (2018-19) where he won a Grey Cup (2018, CFL’s championship) and was an All-Star (2019). He signed with the Bears last year for his second shot in the NFL but has yet to make a regular-season appearance. Could 2021 be his year to finally do so?
Playing for three teams (Houston, Miami, Chicago) in just two seasons hasn’t stopped this third-year pro from pushing forward. He’s only played in eight games to this point (six tackles), but Crawford looks to find a spot on this team amidst the void of last year’s departures. But like the other young players on this list, he’ll need to find a way to stand out, likely using his 4.48 speed.