Going into the 2017 NFL season, there was debate whether cornerback Kyle Fuller would make the Bears’ 53-man roster.
In 2016, Fuller was sidelined due to a knee injury but had an opportunity towards the end of the season to come off IR. But when the 21-day window opened for him to return from his injury, Fuller couldn’t put together consecutive good practices together. This made defensive coordinator Vic Fangio question Fuller’s desire to play.
General Manager Ryan Pace then signed cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in early March, and later that month, the Bears declined to pick up Fuller’s fifth-year option on his rookie contract – making him a free agent in 2018.
As training camp began, Fuller was playing with the second and third-team defense. He lost his starting job and it looked almost certain he would end up as another disappointing first-round pick. However, an injury to Amukamara in the preseason gave Fuller one last chance to impress the coaches.
With Fuller being the starter, he has played exceptionally well in the first six games this season. If he can maintain this high-level of play for the remainder of the season, he will be deserving of a contract extension.
In last week’s 27-24 victory against the Ravens, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg tested Fuller often, including three straight times in the red zone on one drive.
On first-and-goal from the Bears nine-yard line with just under 25 seconds left in the second quarter, the Ravens offense was in prime position to get in the end zone before halftime. The first play was a pass to Benjamin Watson on an out route; Fuller stopped his backpedal, broke on the route and put his right hand between the receiver and the ball to break up the pass. On the second play, Fuller disrupted the timing of Mike Wallace’s route, forcing Joe Flacco into an overthrow. The last play Flacco had time in the pocket, moved right and threw an inaccurate pass to Chris Matthews.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Ravens targeted Fuller 15 times throughout the game – he allowed five receptions.
His best pass breakup came with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter.
The Bears were up 17-13 and the Ravens were on the Bears’ 30-yard line, well in range for kicker Justin Tucker. On second down, Flacco dropped back and threw a pass intended for Chris Moore on the comeback route. Fuller played off Moore, back peddled and wheel turned to put himself in perfect position to disrupt the pass. Fuller tackled the receiver, which popped the ball in the air and 90 yards later Adrian Amos ended up in the end zone with his first career interception.
Fuller has been stout in the passing game all season, but he may be even better in run support.
According to ESPN Stats, Fuller is tied for fifth in the league among cornerbacks with 27 total tackles. Over the past six weeks, Fuller has been relentless when tackling the ball carrier, delivering big hits when he has the opportunity. When Fuller is following a receiver downfield and has to come back to make a tackle, he does a great job of finding the ball and taking the correct angle to make the tackle.
The Bears defense is currently ranked sixth in the league in yards given up per game and Fuller is a big part of the reason why. He is just one of the many players who is making the unit one of the best in the league.
Doubt may have been lingering about Fuller coming into the season, but there sure isn’t any now. He’s the best defensive back on the roster and will look to keep it that way, hopefully, for years to come.