After volatile first year, Bears seeing CB Kyle Fuller grow up


After volatile first year, Bears seeing CB Kyle Fuller grow up

Whether it’s the NFL, business or just life in general, some years are just like that. As Kyle Fuller is finding out.

About this time a year ago, the Bears cornerback was the rookie No. 1 draft pick, coming off a two-interception game in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers that earned him the honor of NFC Defensive Player of the Week. John Fox singled Fuller out for mention as one of the building blocks of the Bears’ defense after Fox became Bears head coach.

Then came the 2015 preseason in which Fuller struggled with assignments, tackling and other parts of what had appeared to be an elite-level skill set, in addition to appearing to lose focus and composure at times. The bottom came in Chicago when Fuller was benched in the second half against the Arizona Cardinals in favor of seldom-used backup Terrance Mitchell.

That was followed a day later by respected veteran safety Antrel Rolle in a radio interview suggesting that Fuller needed to become a true professional and be a true student of film. The obvious implication was that Fuller was neither, yet.

[MORE BEARS: Preparing for Bears, Jim Caldwell not denying some Lions quit vs. Cardinals]

“There is no magic potion out there,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.” You gotta go out there, experience success, do your job, break up a pass or two, you know, be tight to your man, make the plays when they come to you, and the more he does that, the more confidence he will get.”

Since then, the messages appear to have registered and the confidence has indeed begun to re-emerge even as some of the criticism was stinging.

“He’s definitely grown up the last couple of weeks,” said cornerback Tracy Porter. “He’s been accepting the challenges that’ve been put in front of him. People were harping on him, saying he’s been struggling.

“But I don’t see it. These last couple weeks he’s been doing a tremendous job.”

That job has included seven tackles, over the three games since Arizona.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What it hasn’t included has been a lot of effusive assessment of his performances:

“It’s been cool, hasn’t been much different,” Fuller said. “I haven’t really changed anything.”

Getting more comfortable? “Yeah.”

That is one overriding component of the overall with Fuller. Coaches are now starting to see what they thought they had in Fuller, who also has appeared to work harder at his craft.

“You have to focus every week in this league, especially at that position, where you’re out on an island so much,” said Fox. “You’re dealing with some pretty incredible athletes at the wide-receiver position. Just technique-wise, he’s honed in better, working a little bit harder at perfecting those skills in practice and I think it’s carried over into the game.” 

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

USA Today

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is having what many believe is his best offseason since taking the job in 2015, but after three seasons and only 14 wins, he needs a big year in 2018 to justify the confidence ownership has in him. 

According to a recent breakdown of all 32 general managers, Pace ranks among the worst decision-makers in the league.

No. 23: Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

There’s only so much you can accomplish in one spring. The problem is that Pace let himself accumulate so many needs to begin with. He needs Trubisky and Nagy to springboard a fourth-year turnaround. 

The rankings didn't include six new GM hires, which makes Pace's positioning even more troubling.

Even though the Bears haven't seen wins on the field, Pace has done a solid job through three draft classes and appears to have the right coaching staff in place. His first hire, John Fox, was a calculated move by a rookie general manager to have an experienced football guy to lean on. Now, several offseasons later, the team is starting to take on his identity.

Despite all the talent Pace has added through the draft and the slow but steady transformation of the team's overall culture, it's a win-now business and if his blueprint doesn't start producing more wins than losses, it will be hard to justify more time and patience for his plan to develop.