Thomas Graham Jr.

Thomas Graham Jr. could still factor in Bears’ secondary in 2022

When the Chicago Bears selected cornerback Kyler Gordon in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft, it appeared any opportunity for Thomas Graham Jr. to play a significant role in the secondary this season was lost.

A sixth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Graham’s hot finish to his rookie year had his arrow pointing up. But the Bears signed veteran Tavon Young in free agency, who brings a reputation as one of the league’s better slot cornerbacks to the roster. With Young expected to fill that role and Gordon locked in as a starter opposite Jaylon Johnson, Graham could be facing an odd-man-out scenario.

But we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Graham was overlooked by former coach Matt Nagy’s staff and stashed on the Bears’ practice squad for most of his rookie season. He didn’t make his first start until Week 15, but he immediately became one of Chicago’s promising young defenders. He was an afterthought, much like he is right now, until that breakout performance.

However, it’s too soon to give up on Graham’s potential in coach Matt Eberflus’ defense. And he’s already proving to be a worthy contender for significant reps in the Bears’ revamped secondary. This week, cornerbacks coach James Rowe said that there’s a competition for the nickel corner role, and Graham is squarely in the mix.

“I love him, you know. He puts in extra time,” Rowe said of Graham. “He comes up and meets with David Overstreet, who coaches our nickels mostly. He comes up and meets up with him every morning at 7 a.m. Very smart player. He is able to handle the workload outside and inside. He is intent on being good, and we love what we see from him so far.”

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