May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) holds up his jersey after being selected as the number fourteen overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to the Chicago Bears at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Most of the Bears picks will be used in multiple ways as I wrote about here, but when it comes to Kyle Fuller and how the Bears could use him to make an impact on their 2014 defense, he could be best described as the defensive back version of a Swiss army knife. Here’s an excellent article that describes what they did at Virginia Tech, and just focus in on the parts that feature the “whip” position. (Article link). Now Fuller won’t be a safety by name or on the depth chart, but make no mistake about it he will have a lot of safety responsibility which is what a whip linebacker is. A defacto safety if you will. Sure the Bears don’t have the whip in their defense yet, but be certain of this…they will. They may call it Rover or nickle/Dime back, but he will play like a safety. At least while their two pro bowl corners are still on the roster.
UNDERSTANDING FULLER’S ROLE IN BUD FOSTER’S DEFENSE:
As I mentioned earlier one of the main roles Fuller played was the “whip”. In Virginia’s 4-4 front that’s the outside linebacker on the defense’s wide-side. The whip linebacker would have to be athletic, tough, and have good fundamental skills to tackle, play the pass, and blitz. From there he had 3 responsibilities. In standard formations he’d play off the outside shoulder of the Stud end (wide-side end) as the defense’s outside linebacker on the wide-side of the defense. Against 3 plus wide formations he would play the slot receiver on his side of the field. In any obvious passing situations he would play off the ball in a free safety type of alignment and man up on the (Y) receiver.
This was not the only role he played. He also played a lot of boundary corner which is typically the CB on the short side of the field. That’s the equivalent of the strong side LB or the Strong safety. Typically the more physical of the corners who takes on the bigger receivers and plays a great deal of run support. He also played field corner which in the Hoakies scheme is the wide-side corner who typically takes the Z or flanker receiver. So in essence in just two positions he’s played nickle, safety, cornerback, and linebacker.
HOW DOES HE TRANSITION TO THE NFL AND HOW WILL BEARS USE HIM:
Watching the tape you can clearly see the many ways he can be used to get him on the field. Not much he can’t do as a defensive back really. I’ll use the game that impressed Phil Emery when he attended this past season and that’s the Georgia tech game. (Fuller/Georgia game video) In the video I’m linking you to we see Virginia start off in a 4-3, and than move Fuller in from the whip position on the wide side to the B gap between the stud end, (and what looks like the DT playing the 1 technique lined up in the A gap) on the very first play of the video making it an 8 man front in a 4-4 alignment. As the ball is snapped Fuller immediately run blitzes the B gap getting penetration, and forcing the play outside where the Hoakies have 4 more defenders to beat 2 blockers to the running back. Initially the running back slipped the tackle attempt by Fuller who got to the back about 4 yards deep in the backfield, but to his credit he continued to pursue the play even though he didn’t factor in the tackle. If not for a couple of the Hoakie defenders over pursuing on the play Fuller would’ve been key in causing a TFL, or at the most a minimal gain instead of the 8 yards the runner eventually got.
In this video you can see the quickness and the anticipation of the snap, and decisive read by Fuller which will make him an excellent blitzer against not only the pass, but the run as well. There are several examples of this throughout the video. Fuller was constantly jumping in threatening the A gap and would jump into the B gap sometimes to get penetration. This is purely instinct. At the 1:14 mark of the video you can see his physicality when he meets with the running back. Something else he brings to the table, and how he can also play as an in the box safety.
At the 1:47 mark you can see him even take on a tackle and holds his ground. Even disengaging from the block and pursuing the play down field. This shows off his toughness, and strength not to mention good fundamental technique to avoid the cut block. At the 2:15 mark you can see him threaten the A gap at the line of scrimmage, but than back off and take the running back out of the backfield to take away the crossing route option, and forcing the QB to pull it down, leave the pocket, and still could not complete it as Fuller had blanket coverage on the back. He than flinged it down-field and straight into the pick. At the 2:35 you can see him pressure the QB and would’ve got him had his teammate not gotten in the way and undercut him. At 2:54 you see Fuller take on the slot receiver who lined up like a blocker so he read pass perfectly. Even though the pass was completed against his teammate, Fuller had his man all the way down-field.
Now what this video shows me is that this kid is going to play the slot right off the bat. In this video he was playing the whip position the entire time. He was doing a ton of things from there though. He was run blitzing, reading run off the line of scrimmage and immediately recognizing the run and shooting in there, taking the RB in a pass pattern, a slot receiver down-field, or blitzing the QB, and forcing a disruption. Completely hybrid. I see a player who can stop the run, pressure the QB, and cover TE’s, RB’s, and all types of WR’s. It’s easy to see why the Bears jumped all over Fuller. With a player that can affect every phase of the defense in a positive way what’s not to like?