The Chicago Bears’ cornerbacks unit has a starting position to fill but appears ready to show the league that the unit is among the best in the NFL.
Last season, the Chicago Bears were tough to throw against. They ranked ninth in passing yards allowed and fourth in passing touchdowns allowed. They did that despite not being the turnover machine they were in 2018. After ranking first in interceptions in 2018, they tumbled to 25th in 2019.
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano wants to change all that. Last season was his first with Chicago. Despite adjusting to a new coordinator and suffering a spate of injuries, the defense did a remarkable job. They ranked fourth in points allowed and we saw what they did against the pass.
Kyle Fuller had another sparkling season in 2019. He recorded 82 tackles, 12 passes defended, and 3 sacks. He earned himself another Pro Bowl appearance.
After recording 66 tackles, 12 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions in 2018, Prince Amukamara‘s numbers dropped to 53 tackles, 10 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, and no sacks in 2019. This offseason, the Bears decided to part ways with him.
A pleasant surprise was Buster Skrine. When the Bears signed him as a free agent last year, many fans scratched their heads. The Bears felt that playing on an elite defense would bring his game up. He tried to do too much when he played with the New York Jets struggling defense and his play suffered.
The Bears were right and Skrine had a strong season. One of the knocks on him was penalties. He was too grabby and paid the price. In 2019, he committed only one penalty, an offside on special teams in Week 2.
Kevin Toliver did a good job in the rotation. He proved to be a pretty good backup player for the unit.
Changes to the unit
As mentioned before, Amukamara found himself out of Chicago and now plays for the Las Vegas Raiders. That means there is a starting job up for grabs.
Toliver will compete for Amukamara’s old spot. However, the Bears drafted Jaylon Johnson in the second round (50th overall) of this year’s draft. Johnson is an athletic ballhawk who has the speed to keep up with any receiver. Additionally, he is a physical player, something that Chicago Bears fans are used to seeing from their defensive players.
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Johnson is surely the future for the Bears’ defense. The question is when that future begins. Without preseason games, can Johnson win the starting job? We’ll see.
Another player in the mix is Artie Burns. Burns is trying to resurrect his career after flaming out with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s the favorite to begin the season as the starter but if he does he’ll only be a seat warmer until Johnson shows he’s ready to start.
You know, Kyle’s job is to hold off Denmark. It’s Denmark’s job to take Kyle’s job. So we should have a whole room of competitors who think they’re starters. That’s what I believe in, that’s what I was taught.
Denmark has great size at 6-foot-2, 217 pounds. He is a converted wide receiver with 4.4-40 speed. The Bears love that he can keep up with speedy receivers deep down the field. They’re hoping he can step up in season two and help Fuller get some breaks throughout the season.
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Unless he has a superb training camp, Toliver looks to be a backup again. That isn’t a bad thing, however. He’ll still see a lot of snaps on the field.
Another player who may contribute as a reserve is the Bears’ fifth-round pick (163rd overall) in this year’s draft. He is another physical player who can make an impact if he shows that he’s ready for the big time he could push for some playing time.
If Johnson’s adjustment to the NFL is quick and the backups do enough to help the starters stay healthy and fresh the entire season then the Chicago Bears have themselves a very tough cornerbacks unit. Also, with a healthy Akiem Hicks together with Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn rushing the quarterback, the cornerbacks will have more opportunities to cause turnovers as the unit did in 2018. Harassed quarterbacks tend to make mistakes and this group can take advantage of those mistakes. Fans should have a fun time watching this cornerbacks unit in 2020.