On third-and-8 late in the third quarter and the Bears trailing by 18 points to the Packers, Kyler Gordon came on a nickel blitz. The second-round draft pick rushed off the right edge and ducked underneath right guard Jon Runyan and appeared to hit his right hand on running back AJ Dillon. Gordon fell just to the right of quarterback Jordan Love’s feet and immediately grabbed his hand.
That was Gordon’s last play in the 38-20 loss to the Packers.
The Bears officially announced on Thursday that Gordon will go on injured reserve. He will have to miss at least the next four games, and could return in the Week 6 matchup against the Vikings at Soldier Field.
Bur for now, defensive coordinator Alan Williams will be without one of his top cornerbacks and the top guy at the nickel position — which is one of the most important ones in this Bears defense.
The likely candidates to fill the void in Gordon’s absence are Josh Blackwell, Jaylon Jones and Greg Stroman — who was elevated to the active roster once Gordon was placed on IR. All three were on the Bears last season and got some playing time towards the end of the year.
Blackwell — who is going into this second season — played 117 snaps in the slot in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus. He registered 44 of them (his most) in the Week 13 matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
Blackwell’s 2022 performance against the Packers, stood out to fellow cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
“I’ll say what gives me confidence is I’ve seen him do it,” Johnson said. “I mean, shoot, he played against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last year and he did a really good job. He’s definitely been out there in the fire, he’s been thrown out there. He knows what it looks like, he knows how it feels to be out there in a real game playing against some real competition. So, I’m looking forward to him going out there, learning that chemistry with ones and then playing ball.”
After Gordon got hurt, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback finished the game with two total tackles, including a good form tackle on Dillon early in the fourth quarter.
Blackwell would be the likely first candidate to replace Gordon, but the undrafted rookie out of Duke didn’t participate in Thursday’s practice due to a hamstring injury and he was also limited on Wednesday with that same injury.
Jones played a majority of his snaps last season for the Bears on the outside, but in Week 12 against the New York Jets, Jones lined up in the slot 30 times. Even though the second-year defensive back appeared in 16 games, he only has 45 total snaps in the slot.
Stroman didn’t have any nickel snaps in 2022 for the Bears. According to PFF, Stroman had one snap from the slot in 2019 in Week 1. And you have to go back to his rookie season in Washington in 2018 when Stroman played 179 snaps at the nickel spot.
Whoever ends up playing the position for the Bears, it will be a player with little experience. With how important the nickel spot is to this defense, it wouldn’t be out of the question for general manager Ryan Poles to potentially consider brining in a veteran.
The Bears already had a lot to clean up defensively from their Week 1 loss to the Packers, and now things just got a little more difficult with Gordon being place on IR.