The Bears sound like they’re ready to go back to a rotation between their two rookie cornerbacks when they host the Lions this Sunday. On Monday, head coach Matt Eberflus said it looks like starter Tyrique Stevenson will return after missing the team’s most recent game. Then he said that he and his defensive staff would continue to explore a rotation between Stevenson and Terell Smith.
“We want to get our young guys more and more playing time,” Eberflus said. “If they're effective and produce, we certainly will play them. You guys know that.”
The Bears have spoken highly of Smith all year even though Stevenson won the starting outside corner job opposite Jaylon Johnson out of training camp. He impressed enough in practice and in his limited game experience to earn snaps in a rotation with Stevenson in Week 11. Smith was then a standout performer in his spot start for Stevenson in Week 12.
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Rotating Stevenson and Smith is an interesting decision for a coach who some believe is on the hot seat. Prioritizing player development with a rookie rotation compared to playing the starters all the time indicates that Eberflus might not feel outside pressure to win right now. It will also give the team valuable tape to evaluate as they engage in negotiations with Johnson. If Smith and Stevenson each continue to improve and play at a high level, it could make the team confident enough to move on without paying Johnson a huge contract.
Over seven games and three starts Smith has surrendered a 63% completion rate and 89.9 QB rating when targeted. He’s also made impressive tackles in the open field to prevent first downs and explosive gains. Stevenson has been put into the line of fire more often as a starter, and he’s noticeably improved as the season has progressed. Stevenson has given up a 67% completion rate and 112.5 QB rating when targeted. Stevenson also has one interception.