Bears

Bears secondary ranked as one of league's most underrated position groups

Bears secondary ranked as one of league's most underrated position groups

Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller had a breakout season in 2017. It was a prove-it year for the former first-round pick, and he delivered in a big way. He parlayed his career-best season into a four-year, $56 million deal and is now considered one of the NFL's top corners.

He's not the only high-end performer in Chicago's secondary, however. Safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson arrived as one of the league's top young safety tandems, and veteran Prince Amukamara did enough opposite Fuller to receive a multi-year deal this offseason.

Entering 2018, the Bears may have one of the most overlooked secondaries in the NFL. In fact, that's exactly what The Ringer's Danny Kelly declared in a recent story about the NFL's most unheralded position groups.

"Most of the hype around the Bears’ eventful offseason has focused on the team’s new head coach, Matt Nagy, its offensive skill-position reboot (headlined by the signing of Allen Robinson), and the potential growth of second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky," Kelly wrote. "But don’t lose sight of what the team did to keep its burgeoning secondary intact."

The biggest challenge facing the Bears' defensive backs is the fact they'll be challenged by three top-tier quarterbacks in the NFC North. Aaron Rodgers is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer while Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford are perennial Pro Bowlers. Fuller, Amukamara and the rest of the starters will need a big assist from Leonard Floyd and the pass rush.

The Bears are going to need to get more from their pass rush next year, and the team’s defensive backs will simply have to make more plays on the ball after intercepting just eight passes all of last year (tied for 29th). But Chicago’s unheralded secondary unit looks poised for more recognition in 2018.

Fuller proved last season that he's a true lockdown defender. He recorded two interceptions and a career-high 17 passes defended. He set a new career-best in tackles, too, with 66. His 84.3 grade from Pro Football Focus ranked 21st among cornerbacks and was yet another career watermark.

Assuming Fuller stays healthy and has another top-tier season, and the young safeties develop as expected, the Bears' secondary has as good of a chance as any to be considered one of the elite position units in the NFL by season's end.

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

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USA Today

Chicago Bears Training Camp: Veteran and rookie report dates

Chicago Bears training camp is right around the corner with the first practice (non-padded) scheduled for July 21. 

Bears veterans and rookies will report a few days ahead of that first session to acclimate themselves to their new (for some) surroundings. Rookies report on July 16, with veterans coming three days later on July 19.

All eyes will be on QB Mitch Trubisky and the potentially high-flying offense under coach Matt Nagy. Training camp will take on extra importance because of the plethora of new faces on the roster and coaching staff as well as the installation of a completely new offensive scheme. It's critical that Trubisky builds chemistry with wide receivers Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Kevin White, all of whom he's never thrown a regular-season pass to. Add Trey Burton to that mix and a lot of miscues should be expected in the preseason.

The rookie class is led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who remains unsigned. With less than 30 days until rookies are required to report, a greater sense of urgency -- even if it's not quite a panic -- is certainly creeping in. Assuming he's signed in time, Smith should earn a starting role early in training camp and ascend to one of the defense's top all-around players. 

The Bears have higher-than-usual expectations heading into the 2018 season making fans eager for summer practices to get underway.

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

Leonard Floyd picked as potential Pro Bowler in 2018

The Chicago Bears need a big season from outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. He's the team's best pass-rush option and the only legitimate threat to post double-digit sacks this year.

Floyd joined the Bears as a first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2016 and has flashed freakish talent at times. The problem has been his health; he's appeared in only 22 games through his first two seasons. 

Floyd's rookie year -- especially Weeks 5 through 9 -- showed a glimpse of the kind of disruptive force he's capable of becoming. He registered seven sacks and looked poised to breakout in 2017. Unfortunately, injuries limited him to only 10 games and four sacks.

Despite his disappointing sophomore season, NFL.com's Gil Brandt has high hopes for Floyd in 2018. The long-time NFL personnel executive named Floyd as the Bear with the best chance to earn a first-time trip to the Pro Bowl.

CHICAGO BEARS: Leonard Floyd, OLB, third NFL season. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie in 2016, but missed six games last season due to a knee injury. He's a talented guy who can drop into coverage or rush with his hand on the ground and should play much better this season. He also has become much stronger since coming into the league.

The Bears will be in a heap of trouble if Floyd doesn't emerge as a Pro Bowl caliber player. There aren't many pass-rushing options on the roster outside of Floyd aside from Aaron Lynch and rookie Kylie Fitts. Neither edge defender has a resume strong enough to rely on as insurance.

It's a critical year for Floyd's future in Chicago, too. General manager Ryan Pace will decide whether to pick up Floyd's fifth-year option in his rookie contract next offseason. If he plays well, it's a no-brainer. If not, Pace could be looking at two straight first-round picks (see: Kevin White) that he's declined the extra year.

We're a long way from that decision. Until then, the Bears' season may sink or swim based on its pass rush. It begins -- and ends -- with Floyd.