A new coach like Matt Eberflus won’t come out waving the warning flag about his team’s talent shortage.
This doesn’t make sense as it may reveal a rough strategy or create issues with players already on the roster.
Eberflus got as close as a coach can get during Bears minicamp when talking about one particular position, but the problem he saw isn’t one they can fix in the draft.
This was the team’s cornerback situation.
“I like it, they are quick,” he said. “I saw them in practice yesterday. I was there with the defense yesterday and I really liked them.”
Butter ended at this point.
“There’s not a lot of experience with this group at the moment, but there are a lot of young people,” Eberflus said. “The guys are young and they’re energetic, they’re fast and they’re athletic, and we’re evaluating guys one guy at a time, one day at a time.”
That’s about as close to panic as any new coach will get. The inexperience is blatant.
Eberflus need not worry about Jaylon Johnson, who was not present at the veterans’ voluntary minicamp.
However, the Bears still rely on two younger, unproven cornerbacks in Duke Shelley at nickel and Kindle Vildor at left cornerback. Shelley was playing right cornerback in minicamp with newly signed veteran Tavon Young in the slot. The slot figures to be a battle between these two unless one from the draft enters the fray.
Needless to say, the project does not provide experience.
Eberflus seemed anything but to say that he needed experienced help. They added a player at the end of camp in Greg Stroman, but that doesn’t really count as experience.
Stroman started three times in 2018 but suffered a foot and groin injury and has been injured on reserve or out of the league almost entirely since that year. He’s only played five games since 2018, when he had one interception and four pass breakups with three starts and 15 games as a rookie. He was not in the league last season.
If the Bears are to find experience, it will be in some of the remaining free agents.
Here are the best of the bunch not so old they better be NFL Network studio analysts.
Trae Waynes, Bengals
The former Vikings starter is 29 and played four games with Cincinnati last year. His coverage has been less than stellar since 2018. He had a 107.9 not-against rating in 2019 and 140.0 against in 2021. He’s given up eight total TD passes in his last two seasons played, including three last year out of 243 games.
Kyle Fuller, Broncos
Would the Bears now bring him back to 31 this season? It’s a different regime in charge now, but it’s not Fuller the Pro Bowl player of 2017-18. He was ranked 111th out of 116 cornerbacks ranked by Pro Football Focus last year. Will he even swallow his pride and return to Chicago as a low cost free agent or just retire?
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Kevin King, Packers
He had 30 pass breakups and seven interceptions with 42 starts in Green Bay, but gave up too many big plays and the team brought in much better coverage players.
Xavier Rhodes, Foals
A former Eberflus HITS system with 13 career interceptions and 92 pass breakups who is in his 10th year. He’s 32 and would be an ideal experienced alternative in the system at left cornerback to hold it until a rookie or Thomas Graham Jr. can be ready to play him.
TJ Carrie, Foals
Another Colts HITS alum who has seven career interceptions and 52 pass breakups and is 31 years old. He is not, however, an ideal outside cornerback. He’s been more of a cover player in the subset, but has played on the outside at times. He’s even been a safety, and that kind of versatility can’t hurt. He had passer ratings down from 78.0 and 97.9 over the past two years and has 54 career starts.
Vernon Hargeaves, Bengals
Signed with the Bengals to assist on 72 games last year after being waived to Houston and has just 26. Injuries have taken their toll after a promising start to his career at Tampa.
In fact, he is a street free agent and not a UFA. The Raiders gave up a first-round pick after less than two seasons. The chiefs picked it up and gave it up. Would the Bears want to give a first-round guy from Ohio State another chance? He doesn’t really have the kind of experience they need to help sort things out at the back.
AJ Bouye, Panthers
The 10th-year veteran hasn’t started more than seven games in each of the past two years for Denver and Carolina after starting in Houston and Jacksonville. A veteran of 76 starts, 110 games, 14 steals and 75 pass breakups.
Fabian Moreau, Falcons
Former third-round pick with Washington who played an unforgettable year in Atlanta. Still just 28, he had started 18 games for Washington from 2017 to 2020. Last year he gave up eight touchdowns and had a terrible 115.1 passer rating, but he had 93 assist ratings against .3 and 79.9 in two years before that. He ran a 4.35 second 40 when exiting the combine.
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