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Bears 2022 position preview: Defensive back

Bears rookie DBs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker
Bears rookie DBs Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker

The following is the eighth of nine position previews in advance of training camp.

The Bears bolstered their secondary in the second round of this year's draft by selecting Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon at No. 39 and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker at No. 48.

It was the first time the Bears have spent their first two picks in a draft on defensive backs since 2006 when they chose safety Danieal Manning at No. 42 and cornerback Devin Hester at No. 57, also both in the second round. Hester was moved to receiver the following season.

Gordon appeared in 33 games over four seasons at Washington, recording 98 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, two interceptions, 14 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

Becoming a full-time starter for the first time last season, he was named first-team All-Pac 12 after establishing career highs with 46 tackles and nine pass breakups while registering his first two interceptions. A special teams standout earlier in his career at Washington, Gordon impressed the Bears with his competitiveness and toughness on defense last year.

Brisker appeared in 34 games with 21 starts over the past three seasons at Penn State, compiling 152 tackles, 7.0 tackles-for-loss, five interceptions and 19 pass breakups. He transferred to Penn State from Lackawanna College, where he played in 2017-18.

Last season the 6-1, 199-pounder was named first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American after playing in 12 games and generating 63 tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and seven pass breakups.

Gordon and Brisker join a Bears secondary that features two returning starters in cornerback Jaylon Johnson and safety Eddie Jackson.

A 2020 second-round pick from Utah, Johnson demonstrated his playmaking ability from Day 1. As a rookie, he started the first 13 games before being sidelined with a shoulder injury, producing 44 tackles and tying for ninth in the NFL with 15 pass breakups.

The 6-foot, 196-pounder made an immediate impact, preserving a season-opening win over the Lions by batting away a pass in the end zone as time expired. Later in the season, he deflected two passes that resulted in interceptions by teammates.

Last year Johnson started all 15 games he played and recorded a career-high 46 tackles, nine pass breakups and one interception.

Jackson is a two-time Pro Bowler who is tied for third in Bears history with Lance Briggs with six career defensive touchdowns, trailing only Charles Tillman (9) and Mike Brown (7).

Jackson has started 76 of a possible 81 games in five seasons, registering 342 tackles, 10 interceptions, 33 pass breakups, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. Last year the 2017 fourth-round pick from Alabama compiled 76 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, two pass breakups and one forced fumble.

Other key returnees include safety DeAndre Houston-Carson and cornerbacks Kindle Vildor, Thomas Graham Jr. and Duke Shelley.

Houston-Carson has appeared in 77 games over six seasons since being selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2016 draft out of William & Mary. He and 2016 second-round pick Cody Whitehair are the longest tenured players on the team's roster.

Primarily a special teams contributor for most of his career, Houston-Carson took advantage of an expanded role on defense last season. Playing 419 defensive snaps before missing the final five games with a fractured forearm, he generated 47 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups. At the time of his injury during a Week 14 game in Green Bay, he ranked fourth on the Bears in tackles.

On special teams, Houston-Carson produced four tackles and returned a Ray-Ray McCloud fumble that was caused by Caleb Johnson on a punt return 25 yards for a touchdown last Nov. 8 in Pittsburgh.

A 2020 fifth-round pick from Georgia Southern, Vildor has appeared in all 33 games with 13 starts the past two seasons, registering 63 tackles, five pass breakups, 1.0 sack and one tackle-for-loss. Last year he started 12 games and recorded 46 tackles and four pass breakups.

A 2021 sixth-round pick from Oregon, Graham appeared in four games with one start as a rookie, recording 13 tackles and four pass breakups.

Shelley, a 2019 sixth-round selection from Kansas State, has played in 30 games with six starts, compiling 53 tackles and four pass breakups. Last year he played in 10 contests with four starts, registering 37 tackles and three pass breakups.

After spending the first 14 weeks of the season on the practice squad, Graham, a 2021 sixth-round pick from Oregon, made a splash in his NFL debut in Week 15 versus Minnesota, registering seven tackles and three pass breakups while playing all 64 snaps. He played in four games during the 2021 season, racking up 13 tackles and four pass breakups.

The Bears addressed the secondary in free agency, signing cornerback Tavon Young and safety Dane Cruikshank.

Young spent his first six NFL seasons with the Ravens, appearing in 50 games with 24 starts and generating 127 tackles, four interceptions and 16 pass breakups.

"Tavon has proven he can play in this league," general manager Ryan Poles said after signing Young to a one-year contract. "We look for him to improve our secondary unit and are excited about him being a Chicago Bear."

Young was selected by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of Temple. He played in all 16 games with 11 starts as a rookie, producing 53 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass breakups—all of which remain career highs.

Young missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL he sustained in an OTA practice. He returned to appear in 15 games with six starts in 2018, recording 37 tackles, one interception and five pass breakups. The 5-9, 185-pounder also recovered two fumbles—and returned them both for touchdowns, a 12-yarder in a win over the Falcons and a 62-yarder in a victory over the Chargers.

Young sat out the entire 2019 season with a neck injury and then tore his ACL in the second game of the 2020 campaign, missing the rest of the year. He returned in 2021 to play in all 17 games with seven starts, registering 35 tackles, one interception and three pass breakups.

Cruikshank was selected by the Titans in the fifth round of the 2018 draft out of Arizona. He appeared in 44 games with four starts the past four seasons, compiling 65 tackles and one interception.

"Dane brings a combination of size and speed to our defense and special teams," Poles said after inking him to a one-year deal. "We thought his competitive mentality stood out on tape and are excited to add him to our defense."

Cruikshank contributed primarily on special teams during his first three years with the Titans before making his first four NFL starts and playing 46 percent of Tennessee's defensive snaps last season.

Also competing for roster spots in training camp will be veteran cornerbacks Lamar Jackson, Michael Joseph, BoPete Keyes and Jayson Stanley, as well as rookies Allie Green IV and Jaylon Jones at cornerback and Jon Alexander, seventh-round pick Elijah Hicks and A.J. Thomas at safety.

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