The Bears brass had high hopes for Kyler Gordon when they selected him in the second round of last year’s draft. It looks like he is already in the process of exceeding their expectations in his sophomore season. He might not be rewarded with a Pro Bowl selection (being on the 4-8 Bears will certainly do him no favors in that regard), but he will deserve that recognition if he continues on the same trajectory he’s been on over the previous month.
I know this article directly contradicts a chart that has been making rounds that indicates Gordon is one of the league’s worst corners at preventing separation. I firmly believe that anyone can find a metric that supports an opinion (regardless of whether or not it was created with a specific agenda in mind), and I think the eye test has more value than these countless various scatter plot charts ever could. Last season, I remember being told Sam Mustipher had a 100% pass-block win rate despite being turned to roadkill on countless occasions. My point is, don’t believe every chart that you see pop up on your timeline.
Gordon struggled mightily throughout the first quarter of his rookie season, and some were ready to throw in the towel on him early. However, he improved drastically after the rough start and was playing at a high level to close out the season. The cover man has followed a similar trajectory this year (albeit to a much lesser extent as far as the troubles go), as he has played lights out since the Saints game after struggling a bit in coverage since returning from Injured Reserve in Week Six.
The slot is interesting since the way teams deploy the position largely depends on their personnel. As such, many teams opt to deploy a third safety to cover the slot, while others go the more traditional route of playing a third cornerback. Versatility is essential for those who make their living in the slot, and you would be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded cornerback than Gordon.
The 23-year-old’s ability to defend the run has always been one of his biggest strengths, and he has seemingly taken that part of his game to a new level this season. He regularly makes plays around the line of scrimmage and has shown rare physicality for the position. He has a remarkably similar skillset to Kyle Fuller and is built in the same vein as Kenny Moore II, who is widely considered the league’s premier slot cornerback.
Matt Eberflus was essential to Moore’s development during his time in Indianapolis, and it feels safe to say that he has had a similar effect on Gordon. I have been outspoken in my disdain for the Bears coach, and I firmly believe they should be in the market for a new coach in the offseason. However, he deserves due credit for Chicago’s defensive turnaround over the last few weeks and the development of some of their young defenders playing at a high level, including Gordon.
The addition of Montez Sweat has also been essential to the defensive turnaround over the past few weeks. This should come as no surprise, as an improved pass rush makes life a lot easier on the rest of the defense, especially on the back end. If he can keep putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and opening up opportunities for his teammates to do the same, the Bears secondary should be able to keep feasting.
Jaylon Johnson has received significant praise for his play this season, and there is good reason for that. He has played lockdown coverage and has shown a better nose for the football than in years past (although he still has work to do when it comes to finishing and coming down with the interception). However, Gordon has flown well under the radar and has arguably not received enough recognition for his play on the interior. That being said, it won’t be long before he has established himself as a household name if he continues playing at a high level.