Jaylon Johnson has played superior football through the first two weeks for the Chicago Bears. He is living up to that vast potential he showed as a rookie last season. Most fans presume at this point that is also a one-man show. That he is the only good cornerback they have. Everybody else is terrible. That isn’t entirely fair, or true. When evaluating the results through the first two weeks? Kindle Vildor has stood out in a number of positive ways.
Unfortunately, one play undid all the good things he has shown. That came in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Late in the 4th quarter, he was beaten deep for 42 yards by 5th overall pick Ja’Marr Chase. Looking back on the play? There were some things Vildor could’ve done better. Namely getting his hands on Chase since he was in press coverage. By giving the rookie a free release, he opened himself up to what happened next.
Part of the issue was the defensive play call.
It looks like the Bears are in single-high safety. Eddie Jackson tries to get over to help but is too late. Tashaun Gipson gets caught covering an intermediate route. That left Vildor pretty much all alone and Joe Burrow took advantage. As for the second touchdown a few seconds later? That one was a tough ask. Vildor, at 5’10, found himself matched up on David Njoku. A tight end who is 6’4 and 50 lbs heavier. It was a classic basketball boxout. The bigger man almost always wins in those situations.
Take away that long TD though, the young cornerback would have allowed just three catches for 33 yards and a short TD on five targets through two games. That would be considered far from terrible.
Kindle Vildor deserves more time to keep working
This isn’t one of those cases where it’s apparent he is overwhelmed and out of his depth on the field. The second-year corner is playing with toughness, physicality, and discipline for long stretches of games. He isn’t afraid, and that is often the most critical element to becoming a solid long-term starter. Evaluators have said his biggest thing was gaining experience. Coming from Georgia Southern, he wasn’t used to playing against this caliber of talent.
With each passing week, that is changing. He’s learning about the speed and route-running skills of pro receivers. As he gets a greater handle on it, his eye discipline should start to catch up to his natural talent. That is the hope anyway. Kindle Vildor has plenty of work still to do. That said, he has flashed enough to make one think he will continue to improve.
The challenges don’t get any easier.
He’ll likely see Odell Beckham Jr. a few times on Sunday. Others like Davante Adams, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Chase Claypool are looming on the horizon as well. Johnson can’t cover everybody by himself. The Bears need another cornerback to step up. Vildor is their best chance. If he can blossom in the coming months? The future of their defense takes on a new outlook.