The crazy thing about regime changes in the NFL is it doesn’t always mean every player should fear for their jobs. There are sometimes rare cases where somebody who looked like a lost cause suddenly finds new life in a different system under different coaching. People almost wrote off Marcus Robinson after two forgettable years in 1997 and 1998. Then a new coaching staff arrived, and he exploded for 1,400 yards in 1999. It shouldn’t be crazy to think the same can happen again for the Chicago Bears. There is one such case that might be developing.
The conversation centers around three primary names when talking about the cornerback situation on defense. One is Jaylon Johnson, one is Kyler Gordon, and the last is Tavon Young. Most expected that trio to be the starting group in 2022. Yet when watching early training camp practices, it isn’t Young running with the first-team defense. Nor is it Thomas Graham Jr. who is nursing a bad hamstring.
It is Kindle Vildor.
Plenty of Bears fans will groan when hearing that name. They have nightmares of what happened last season. The former 5th round pick allowed 596 yards and six touchdowns last season. Quarterbacks had a 136.1 passer rating when targeting him in coverage. There was no question he was the weak link of the secondary. Most assumed he would eventually get cut at some point. Yet that hasn’t happened.
If anything, the opposite is taking place. With Graham unable to practice, Vildor has gotten more snaps with the starting defense and isn’t wasting them. Word persists that he’s made some nice plays during drills. One way he’s found to draw the interest of head coach Matt Eberflus is his willingness to tackle. He doesn’t fear contact. That is a big deal in this defense. That growing trust seems to have only given the 24-year-old corner more confidence.
Chicago Bears put him in a way better situation.
Not only are they playing in a defense that eases the burden on cornerbacks, but they also put him under the guidance of Alan Williams. The new defensive coordinator was a defensive backs coach for two decades. He has a long, successful track record of developing young cornerbacks. Vildor is far from the first reclamation project he’s encountered. If he thinks the third-year corner is salvageable, it’s best to trust his judgment.
The Chicago Bears choosing to play Gordon at nickel corner makes this development so unusual. Expectations were they’d want him on the outside opposite Johnson. Yet Eberflus and the staff like him on the inside, where his instincts and quickness may give them an advantage. Since Young isn’t known for quality play on the outside, that allowed Vildor to re-enter the situation.
An opportunity he hasn’t wasted.
The big test is still to come. Looking sharp in practice is one thing. Vildor must show he can transfer it to game situations. Eberflus plans to let the starters play significant snaps in the preseason. If guys want to make an impression, that will be the time to do it. One rarely gets second chances in this league. Vildor is fortunate.