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Sports

Hub Arkush: Need a bit of good Bears news? This year's draft class looks like it can play

Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson during an Monday's game against the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, Calif.
Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson during an Monday's game against the Los Angeles Rams in Inglewood, Calif.

Listen to Bears fans these days and you’d think the Bears were one of the worst franchises in professional sports.

I know the Rams game felt more like a root canal, but it’s not that bad.

The Bears are 5-2, and they still have one of the best defenses in the league.

So what if this offense was rejected at the casting call for the Three Stooges classic “Three Little Pigskins?”

Not a Stooges aficionado? You should catch it. The short actually features Lucile Ball and at least a couple plays that would be upgrades in Matt Nagy’s ground game right now.

Seriously folks I’m trying to cheer you up and there is this:

Lost at the moment in the morass of stuffed running plays, terrible passes, nonexistent pass protection, mystery timeouts and the promise of doing it over and over and over and over and over again – OK, I guess that didn’t help – is what’s starting to look like a pretty special draft class.

What are the odds that any club with only the 43rd and 50th among the first 154 picks in the draft would by Week 7 have three rookies starting, five contributing, all seven of their picks still with the club – as well as six undrafted rookie free agents – and four of those five contributors already showing signs of being very good at their jobs?

OK, it’s early on Cole Kmet, but he is certainly making the most of his limited opportunities.

Listen to him describe one of the far too few bright spots of that Rams disaster, his 38-yard contested catch that set up the offense’s only points of the evening.

“It’s supposed to be just basically a run-sell, but once I knew he wasn’t going to bite on the run, I knew I just had to beat him and hopefully Nick (Foles) would throw up the ball, which he did," Kmet said. “So yeah, I just kind of ran down the sideline and saw the ball up in the air and made a play.”

He has now in back-to-back games shown flashes of what the really good ones do.

There is no question Jaylon Johnson is producing at a level well above what is expected from a rookie cornerback.

How about his confidence when asked about all the pass interference flags flying around the league?

“Nah, I’m not even worried about the flags until I see it. I just try and play the ball," Johnson said. “Being a defender, I never think that there’s a flag so I don’t really expect too many flags. I think all my plays are clean until they’re not clean.”

Trevis Gipson and Kindle Vildor are playing every Sunday as well, and while Gipson appears to still be feeling his way, Vildor has made more than a handful of plays you don’t expect a rookie fifth-round pick from Georgia Southern to make.

Of course the most pleasant surprise has to be Darnell Mooney, almost an afterthought at pick 173 and now starting across from Allen Robinson and quickly becoming a go-to guy for Foles.

In fact if Foles could get the ball to him as often as he’s been available for big chunks, you might even already be starting to hear some all-rookie chatter.

For all his surprising early success Mooney is as laid back and unassuming as can be.

“I just go out there and play my game. Every week, I try to do as best as I can just to help the team," he said. “There’s nothing to have a conversation much about. Whenever my number’s called, no matter if it doesn’t get called or it gets called one time a game, I mean I just have to be ready and continue to try to put some points on the board.”

There is plenty of evidence that Kmet, Johnson, Mooney and Vildor aren’t just going to be starters in this league for years to come, all could be very good ones.

Gipson still looms as a very intriguing pass rushing prospect, and it’s way too early to assume seventh-round offensive lineman Arlington Hambright and free agent running back Artavis Pierce can’t play.

All that and a 5-2 start, it’s OK to smile guys, at least until the Saints get here Sunday.

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