It was a “welcome to the NFL, rookie” moment for Jonathan Bullard.
The rookie Bears defensive end managed to get through the Indianapolis Colts’ protection of Andrew Luck, and Bullard, whose pass-rush prowess at Florida was key to the Bears grabbing him in the third round, was primed for his first NFL sack.
Not so fast.
“(Teammates) were saying how hard he is to tackle, and I was holding on to one leg and he was in the pocket so he couldn’t throw it away,” Bullard said, laughing. “I knew somebody was going to have to come help me and he’d eventually fall.”
Luck did fall, Bullard got the sack, but the 29-23 loss to the Colts was not quite how Bullard had planned this moment.
“It definitely felt good to break the ice,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you feel happy about it but I mostly want the win. But I’m proud of myself for going out and producing.”
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Amid some of the Bears’ struggles on defense — 25 points allowed per game through the 1-4 start — Bullard has begun to produce. One tackle in each of the first two games, two solo stops at Dallas, then three solo tackles, two for loss and his sack, at Indianapolis.
“He’s getting there,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “He played some last week. I hope to be able to play him some more. He had an injury there for the two previous games which limited his snaps but he got (16) last week roughly and hopefully he can continue to get that much and maybe more if he warrants it.”
Bullard and Leonard Floyd were high draft picks primarily as major boosts for a pass rush that showed flashes with Lamarr Houston, Pernell McPhee and Willie Young last year but not enough not enough times.
Houston is done for the season with a knee injury. McPhee is yet to play this season following offseason knee surgery. And Young, with three sacks at Indianapolis, is the lone true pass-rush threat. More is needed from Bullard, in addition to Floyd getting on and staying on the field, which he too often hasn’t.
Bullard’s role has been projected to be as a defensive end in the base 3-4.
“(Bullard is) not quite the size that those (interior) guys are,” Fangio said, referencing Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Mitch Unrein. “He's a guy that's got a little bit more quickness. He's a guy that we hope can be in our mix and rotation and be a guy that comes and plays a fair amount in every game just filling in.”