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What a healthy Tavon Young could mean for the Bears’ defense

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
April 11, 2022

So far through free agency, Ryan Poles has filled his roster with players that embody a particular trait: Resilience. 

This characteristic is something Bears scouts “have been told to add to their list” when evaluating players. Poles shared this information with Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic at the NFL owners’ meetings

*Fishbain joined the CHGO Bears podcast on April 6 to discuss his interview with the Bears’ general manager.

Lucas Patrick, Nicholas Morrow and Bryon Pringle were all undrafted free agents and had to prove their worth to just make their respective teams. Now, each is expected to contribute at key spots for the Bears.

Resilience can also be seen in Tavon Young. 

According to Pro Football Focus’ Ari Meirov, the Bears have signed the former Ravens cornerback to a one-year contract. 

Even though the contract is just for one season, Young provides the secondary with a versatile playmaker that it was desperately lacking. 

The 28-year-old played in all 17 games for the Ravens last season. He registered 35 tackles, three passes defended, two sacks and an interception. 

Since being drafted in the fourth round out of Temple in 2016, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound cornerback has primarily played as the nickel in Baltimore’s defense. Out of 2,024 career defensive snaps, Young has lined up in the slot 50.5 percent of the time, according to PFF. 

That’s where Young made his money in the 2018 season. After recording 37 total tackles, five passes defensed, two fumble recoveries (which both were returned for touchdowns) and an interception, the Ravens made Young the highest-paid nickelback in the league

For a player that was the smallest defensive back at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2016, Young proved he belonged and could be counted on to make plays. 

Last season, injuries dissipated the Ravens’ secondary. But Young embraced the “next-man-up mentality” and filled in as the outside corner down the stretch in 2021. Prior to the Week 10 matchup against the Miami Dolphins last year, Young played just 37 snaps as the wide corner since his rookie season, when he was featured there 632 times. 

By PFF’s grading system, Young finished with an 85.6 grade – his highest of the season. The Dolphins targeted Young six times and he gave up two receptions for only three yards while playing 25 snaps as the outside cornerback. 

Miami’s tight ends can also share how difficult it was to win one-on-one against Young. 

Before the half was about to expire, Young matched up with former Bears tight end Adam Shaheen. The throw is skipped into the ground, but Young didn’t let Shaheen box him out in the end zone even though the tight end had 70 pounds on Young.

Plus, Young played primarily on the outside in this game, so him playing as the nickelback on this play shows the trust the Ravens have in him despite the size mismatch.

The 6-foot-6, 249-pound Mike Gesicki should’ve had another mismatch here. Still, Young is all over the out route on third-and-9 and forced an incompletion.

For the remaining nine games of the season, the Ravens featured Young as the outside corner for 152 snaps compared to 122 in the slot.

For Chicago, Young would be the frontrunner for the nickel position.

However, if coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams want to see what Thomas Graham Jr. is capable of in that spot, then the former Raven could potentially play as the outside

Regardless, Young gives Williams flexibility, especially if players get hurt throughout the season. 

But that’s only if Young is available. 

Young has been injury-prone and has missed nearly three total seasons since being drafted in 2016. Young missed 15 games in 2020 after he tore his ACL in his left knee. In 2019, a neck injury caused him to miss the entire season. And a torn ACL – in the same knee – caused him to miss the whole 2017 season. 

Although Young appeared in all 17 games last season, there were several instances where he didn’t finish the game. In that Week 10 game against Miami, Young left the game with a foot injury in the third quarter. He also couldn’t finish the game in Week 15’s contest versus Green Bay because of a concussion. And in the season finale against Pittsburgh, Young left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. 

The Ravens named Young as last year’s Ed Block Courage Award recipient, which is voted for by the players and given to an individual who demonstrates sportsmanship and courage. 

“It means a lot,” Young said when he won the award. “Everybody knows I’ve faced a lot during my career, my young career so far. It means a lot to be voted on by my teammates, my peers. The training staff they have always been behind me through everything, so it means a lot.”

Young is exactly what Poles is looking for in a player. He has the resilience trait, and, more importantly, another opportunity to showcase what can still do on the football field.

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