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Thomas Graham Jr. received limited action during his rookie season. Despite only appearing in three games and making one start, Graham made a strong positive impression.
Thomas Graham Jr.’s 2021 Stats
Advanced Stat to Know: Graham’s PFF Coverage Grade of 90.6 led all cornerbacks in the NFL.
Best Game of 2021
Graham’s best game came Week 15 in his NFL Debut against the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears had to play reserves across their entire secondary due to an outbreak of COVID-19. Going up against a divisional rival in primetime, Graham demonstrated his talent on the national stage.
Kirk Cousins threw Graham’s way four times. Graham only allowed two catches for a total of 10 yards. He also had an impressive three pass breakups. He also led the secondary with seven total tackles, including this pivotal open-field tackle on C.J. Ham, who weighs over 50-pounds more than Graham.
Outside of playing in the 2021 Recess Senior Bowl, the game against Minnesota was his first game action in 719 days as Graham opted out of his senior year at Oregon due to COVID-19 concerns. What the rookie was able to accomplish in Week 15 at Soldier Field was remarkable.
Can Graham prove to the new coaching staff that he can consistently play at this high level as a slot corner?
Despite looking the part in his limited sample size, the previous regime determined that Graham didn’t deserve extended playing time in the final two games of the 2021 season. Graham played well in over 100 snaps in Weeks 15 and 16. He only saw 10 total snaps over the final two weeks.
With a new coaching staff in place, Graham has a fresh start and the chance to make a positive first impression. However, it’s clear he will not be a starting outside corner — the position he played last season — as the Bears drafted Kyler Gordon in the second round to partner with Jaylon Johnson.
Can he make the transition inside all while learning a new defense?
That appears to be his only path toward earning a starting job in 2022.
Graham is someone who has made the most of his limited opportunities so far in Chicago. But he has an uphill battle if he wants to become a starter for the Bears as they found a bona fide starter in the draft through Gordon.
Perhaps Graham’s camp battle is with Kindle Vildor as the two duke it out to become the top boundary corner off the bench.
If Graham outshines Vildor in OTAs, training camp and the preseason, he could get the job. Here’s to the coaching staff recognizing his talent, unlike the previous regime.
Prediction: Graham becomes the top reserve cornerback (both outside and slot).
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