Bears’ Replacement for Kyler Gordon in Doubt vs. Buccaneers

Blackwell Doubtful Kyler Gordon Week 2

Getty Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon was placed on injured reserve on Thursday, September 14.

The Chicago Bears may have no choice but to roll with their No. 3 option at the nickel cornerback position against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2.

The Bears had been expected to play second-year cornerback Josh Blackwell in the slot cornerback position in their second game after they placed starter Kyler Gordon on injured reserve with a broken hand on September 14. That plan, however, is now in jeopardy after Blackwell missed two practices with a hamstring injury to close out the week and was given a “doubtful” injury designation in Chicago’s final injury report.

Instead, the Bears could have to turn to newly promoted Greg Stroman Jr. for the nickel role against the Buccaneers. They signed him up from the practice squad to the 53-man roster Thursday in a corresponding move when they placed Gordon on IR and played him in the slot on 74 snaps in the preseason; though, he is still a little untested there.

“When you have a guy like Spidey [Gordon] go down, he’s a good player and we are certainly going to miss him,” Bears head coach Matt Ebeflus said during his September 15 press conference. “But what you do is try to do the best with your rest. With Stro and Black, we’ll see where it is. Those guys have been with us, so they know the system and know how to play and have played in there before.”

Blackwell’s injury leaves the Bears with just five healthy cornerbacks for Sunday’s game, including perimeter starters Jaylon Johnson and rookie Tyrique Stevenson. They also have Jaylon Jones available as a rotational option alongside rookie Terell Smith.

Update (9/16, 2:05 p.m. ET): The Bears have now downgraded Blackwell from doubtful to out for Sunday’s 1 p.m. ET kickoff against the Buccaneers.

Bears Prefer to Keep Tyrique Stevenson on Perimeter

Earlier in the week, there was some contention that Stevenson — a second-round rookie who was a bright spot in the opener — could be asked to move into the slot on Sunday. Stevenson also fueled that speculation when he said Thursday that the Bears had talked to him about that possibility so that he would be ready if they went that direction.

For reference, Stevenson played in the slot at Georgia before transferring to Miami and playing primarily on the perimeter for the final two seasons of his collegiate career.

“I feel like there would be some rust, but at the end of the day, I don’t have time for rust, so I feel like I’d just be able to slide back in there and be able to cover,” Stevenson told ESPN’s Courtney Cronin after Thursday’s practice. “I’ve been working on my off-coverage, so I feel like that would be a plus for me.”

When asked about potentially moving Stevenson inside, though, Eberflus admitted that his preference would be to leave his rookie on the perimeter and find another option.

“Yeah, for sure. Tyrique’s a good corner outside,” Eberflus said when asked about his preference for Stevenson. “Especially being a rookie like that, you don’t like moving him around too much, and he’s been productive out there.”

Kyler Gordon Expected Back for Week 6 vs. Vikings

Gordon was an unfortunate victim of bad luck in the first game of his second season with the Bears. Toward the end of the third quarter, he blitzed off the right edge and appeared to hit his right hand on Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon before losing his footing and falling to the turf, where he immediately grabbed at his hand.

The diagnosis, as we now know, was a broken hand for Gordon, who underwent surgery this week and will now have to spend at least the next four games on injured reserve.

Fortunately, Eberflus sounds as though he is optimistic that Gordon will be able to return at the earliest activation window heading into Week 7 against Minnesota.

“[Gordon] had surgery yesterday on his hand,” Eberflus said Friday. “He did break his hand. As you know, he went to IR. We are anticipating, if all things go well, he can be back after Washington [in Week 6], so we’ll just keep him in our prayers. We visited earlier and his teammates are talking to him, so he’s in a good spot mentally with that.”

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