When Lovie Smith put in a cover-2 defense for the Bears in 2004, it really began to take off once two good coverage cornerbacks became comfortable with the heavy zone coverage.
Charles Tillman and Nate Vasher in 2005 helped spark the team’s rise to a division title. Teams seemed to come after Vasher out of fear of Tillman, who had stepped up almost immediately. Vasher was able to take advantage of being targeted and made eight interceptions, or about four times as many as all the Bears cornerbacks combined have made over the last two seasons.
Now the Bears need help at cornerback in the worst way and are basically going to install the same Lovie Smith defense modernized through a decade of trials.
They appear to have one half the problem addressed with Jaylon Johnson, but making him cover receivers all over the field like they did last year defeats the purpose of zone coverage and won’t work wellwith the cover-2 style they are pursuing now under new Coach Matt Eberflus.
The Bears’ need is bad enough to use either their second-round or third-round pick on one. Spending money on cornerbacks in free agency gets awfully expensive and the return is often someone else’s castoff, so the draft is the best avenue.
One player who has caught scouts’ eye as a rising talent and could be available to a team without a first-round pick is Jalyn Armour-Davis of Alabama.
Any defensive player from Alabama or Georgia gets good scrutiny from scouts and Armor-Davis probably isn’t Round 1 talent because he lacks much past success, but showed himself capable of getting there during his only season as Tide starter.
The Armor-Davis Bio
An Alabama prep sprint champion as a junior in the 100 meters and also in the triple jump, Armor-Davis did not become a starting cornerback immediately because he suffered a torn ACL in warmups in early September of his first season. He redshirted, then came back and played two seasons as a substitute and made a big impact as a special teams player.
In 2021, Armor-Davis stepped forth and was having an excellent season, impressing scouts until a hip injury sidelined him for both two Georgia games and the Auburn game. He finished with three interceptions and started 11 games, 15 total for his career. He made 35 tackles and four pass breakups.
Armor-Davis got off to a fast start as starter with an interception against Miami in his first game, then picks in back-to-back games with Tennessee and LSU.
Scouting the Combine
At 6-foot-1 1/2, 192 pounds, Armor-Davis has the length scouts like in outside cornerbacks. He’ll need to prove he has the 40 speed at the combine and also verticality. The knee injury was long ago so he should have regained the speed. The hip injury last year will be a concern teams ask him about and one team medical officials will study.
The Bears Fit
There is no doubt the Bears need taller, athletic cornerbacks. They need one outside, especially. Last year’s roster had no cornerbacks taller than 6-foot and their main starters were Kindle Vildor and Artie Burns, who wouldn’t rate as starters for many teams. They need anyone they can find at slot cornerback, too, but Armor-Davis is more of an outside cornerback and a player teams would hope develops into an effective starter.
NFL Draft Bible ranks him 10th best outside cornerback. Mel Kiper of ESPN has him 10th overall, tied for the spot with seven players. So, suffice to say, he’s top 16. The Bears are looking for someone to team with Johnson as players who can shut down the outside in zone coverage and Armor-Davis has the experience from a high-quality program to make him someone to consider .