Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller is ready to prove he’s elite

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

One of the best players on the Chicago Bears defense, in 2017, was cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller will take the next step in 2018 and enter the class of the elite cornerbacks.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for Kyle Fuller. After being drafted No. 14 overall in 2014 and intercepting two passes from Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football, he missed the entire 2016 season due to a knee scope. Many Chicago Bears fans wanted him cut and his passion for the game was publicly questioned by the coaching staff.

"“Any time a guy’s hurt, there’s three stages to getting back to the field,” Vic Fangio said. “One is you’ve got to get medical clearance. Two, the player’s got to say he’s ready to go and feels confident and he’s champing at the bit to go play. And then the coaches get involved and see if he’s better than what the other choices are and if he really is back to being able to play. A has happened. B hasn’t. So C is a non-issue.”"

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote that Fuller’s time with the Bears was likely coming to an end and that he could be traded for a late-round pick.

So, what changed? Fangio and Fuller bonded over golf in the 2017 offseason. That bonding led to a comeback season that few saw coming.

Per Pro Football Focus, Fuller allowed the lowest catch rate in his coverage among corners last season. Fuller also allowed the second lowest passer rating on deep throws.   Personally, I feel like Fangio helped reinvigorate Fuller and reminded him how talented he was.

While Fuller obviously was tremendous in pass coverage with 17 pass deflections and two interceptions, it was his ability to be physical in the run game that separated him.

You just don’t see cornerbacks willing to put their head down and attack bigger runners downhill. In these clips, Fuller uses perfect technique to erase the screen against the Baltimore Ravens and then the option run against the Carolina Panthers. It’s almost like Fuller savors the contact, as on both plays he flies in like a heat-seeking missile.

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The question a lot of fans and reporters had was “is Fuller just playing this way because he’s looking to get a big contract in free agency?” Well, it didn’t stop the Green Bay Packers from offering him a 4-year, $56 million contract. Fortunately, Fuller was a restricted free agent and general manager Ryan Pace decided to match the offer sheet.

The new contract is not stopping Fuller from building off of the success he had last season. At the 2018 training camp, Fuller is still playing with the killer confidence and mindset he had last season.

On this interception, Fuller knows the route the receiver is running better than the receiver himself. Before the receiver is even out of his break, Fuller races in front of him for the easy pick.

On this play, the receiver is running an out route. Despite Fuller giving the receiver a few feet of space, Fuller is able to beat the receiver to the sideline and break up the pass with his outstretched arm.

Similar to the last play, receiver Taylor Gabriel runs a flat route. Fuller respects Gabriel’s speed and gives him 10 yards of space. Gabriel is arguably the fastest player on the team, yet Fuller closes so fast on Gabriel once he recognizes the route and simply breaks up the pass.

Good things happen when you never quit on a play on the field. On this play, Fuller is the beneficiary of this and is able to intercept a deflected pass in stride and take it back to the house for a pick-six.

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Fuller is entering his fourth season with Fangio as his defensive coordinator and is ready to take the leap from an above-average cornerback into an elite one. Fuller was rated the 10th best cornerback on Bleacher Report’s NFL1000. This season, Fuller is set to become a top-five corner that regularly shuts down the opponent’s best wide receiver. Get ready for the Kyle Fuller show in 2018, folks.