LAKE FOREST – One of the more impressive facts about the Bears’ current win streak is that they’ve been able to do it without one of their better defensive backs.
Rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who has shined in his first year with the team, has been on the sidelines with a shoulder injury since the middle of the Texans’ game. He missed the victories over the Vikings and the Jaguars with the hope that he might return for the season finale against the Packers.
His services would be needed, considering the Packers have the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL led by MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers, but the Bears are going to have to do without them.
Johnson didn’t practice for a third-straight day on Friday, so for a third-straight game, he’ll be on the sidelines as the Bears host Green Bay with a playoff spot on the line. A victory by Matt Nagy’s team or a loss by Cardinals to the Rams gets them in, but now the coach will look for secondary help from his cornerback reserves.
That’s second year player Duke Shelley and rookie Kindle Vildor, who have been picking up the slack at the cornerback position opposite of Kyle Fuller. With the Vikings (18th in the NFL in passing) and Jaguars (20th) not exactly bringing the heat through the air, this week will be the biggest test of those young player’s careers.
Like the last two games, both players are expected to split the duties at that spot, and it’s not a challenge that Nagy has to hype them too much for on Sunday. That’s especially true of Vildor, who is still getting his footing in the secondary in his first NFL season.
“He’s well aware of who we’re going against and our defense and who we’re facing offensively,” said Nagy. “There’s going to plays that are made by those guys on offense, and like we said yesterday, you’ve got to be able to regroup and you go make a play now. What better way to be able to get into a game.
“You’ve got to rely on your teammates, too. We can’t just expect him to come on in here and all the sudden; he’s got to learn as he goes, that’s the growth of a rookie. I don’t have to say anything to him, to answer your question, he’s well aware of who we’re going against.”
See more on the Bears on Chicago Football Weekly with Jarrett Payton and Lauren Magiera on Saturday at 6 PM on WGN-TV.