Bears

West Coast vs. Cover-2; Classics work fine

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West Coast vs. Cover-2; Classics work fine

Friday, Nov. 26, 2010
11:40 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

There is something quietly classic about the drama-within-a-drama that will play out Sunday afternoon. And somehow Andy Reid and Lovie Smith have to be chuckling at the irony.

Both are old news, NFL style. The game has passed them by. Think of Bears-Eagles as an Old-Timers Game, coaching-wise.

Or maybe not so old.

The No. 2 scoring offense of Reids Philadelphia Eagles, at 28.4 points per game, will be matched against Smiths defensive unit that currently is tied for allowing the fewest points per game (14.6). The Reid Eagles are No. 2 in offensive yardage per game. The Smith Bears are third-stingiest, giving up 290.4 yards per game.

Yep, both of the respective schemes are pass. Out-moded. Passed over by the march of NFL time.

Oops.

Remember the West Coast offense?

The Cover-2?

Well, theyre both still here. And theyre apparently not bad, either.
Covering the 2

Smith allows himself a slight smile at the idea here that this game is a fun matchup of yesterdays schemes. Hes more than entitled to that. Any number of local commentators ripped him and his scheme as being no longer workable for any number of reasons.

But a lot of those people were uninformed about what was really going on, Smith said. It ultimately is all about execution. The Eagles run a system that they believe in wholeheartedly, with good reason. And we have a defensive system that we believe in.

What is and was not always grasped was that the Bears run their Cover-2 with its deep-safety look maybe one-third of the time. But thats not even the real point of why outdated schemes like this or the West Coast offense work.

For one thing, if there is consistent, heavy pressure from the line, pretty much any defensive scheme will work to some degree. Anybody really think that the 46 was the only defensive scheme that wouldve worked with Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and William PerrySteve McMichael?

A prime directive of any scheme is to force the opponent first to even recognize what the exact look is, then to react to it. And very, very quickly, as well as without making physical or mental errors in those split seconds. You can disguise what youre doing and the offense has to react to what youre actually in after the snap, Smith says.

The Cover-2 has been around and stood the test of time, just like the West Coast, Smith says with a clear degree of comfort. Its not going anywhere.
West Coast-ing

Reid has been running his offense in Philadelphia since becoming a first-time head coach there in 1999. Before Philadelphia, he was around Brett Favre, Mike Holmgren and the Green Bay Packers as they ran that scheme in trashing the Bears defenses of Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron.

Reid worked under Holmgren and coordinator Sherman Lewis during time there and they both allowed me to more than they probably should but I mustve done ok at it and I learned, Reid said. I had two great teachers who had trust in me.

So here is this old West Coast thing, which is really a Lavell EdwardsBrigham Young (the school, not the Mormon) thing, which is where Reids roots trace to.

I went to BYU and Ive been blessed with great players around me, in particular Donovan McNabb, Reid acknowledges. As to whether its a case of philosophy or scheme, Its probably a little bit of both.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 6 - Kyle Fuller

15 Most Important Bears of 2018: No. 6 - Kyle Fuller

Last year this time, Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was about to start the most important training camp of his pro football career. The former first-round pick was coming off a season where he didn't play a single game because of a mysterious knee injury and was viewed as a potential training camp casualty.

The Bears didn't pick up his fifth-year option and as a result, the 2017 season represented a prove-it year for Fuller. And boy did he ever.

Fuller enjoyed the best season of his career from both a health and production standpoint. He registered 60 tackles and two interceptions en route to becoming the kind of shutdown corner the Bears envisioned when he was selected 14th overall in the 2014 NFL draft. He got paid for his efforts, too.

Ryan Pace rewarded Fuller with a four-year $56 million contract, making him one of the team's biggest cap hits over the next three seasons. To be fair, Fuller's contract was actually offered by the rival Packers and Pace exercised his option to match under the transition tag. Still, it's a contract that Fuller must now continue to earn. One great season is a far cry from a great career.

There's no reason to expect a regression from Fuller, assuming he can stay healthy. The entire starting secondary is returning and should be even better than last year with more comfort and confidence in each other. Fuller can trust safeties Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos to have his back if he takes a chance at an interception. It's not unreasonable to expect Fuller to have an even better year considering he's beginning 2018 with that trust in his teammates already developed.

The Bears need Fuller to take hold of elite status this year. He's just as important to the defense's success as the pass rush is. He has to make Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford think twice about throwing in his direction. He needs to shrink the field.

Fuller isn't that guy yet, but if he blossoms into one of the league's top cover guys, Chicago's defense will challenge for an even better status than the top-10 finish they enjoyed a year ago. Much of his success will rely on the aforementioned pass rush, and one could argue that the Bears haven't exactly set up Fuller for a sensational breakout. But the point remains: For Chicago to soar among the league's top defenses, Fuller has to become one of the NFL's best pure defenders.

He's close. 

Three questions for Bears CBs: Will continuity breed success?

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USA TODAY

Three questions for Bears CBs: Will continuity breed success?

Pre-camp depth chart

Outside corner

1. Kyle Fuller
2. Marcus Cooper
3. Michael Joseph
4. Tyrin Holloway

1. Prince Amukamara
2. Sherrick McManis
3. Kevin Toliver II
4. Rashard Fant
5. John Franklin III

Nickel corner

1. Bryce Callahan
2. Cre’Von LeBlanc
3. Jonathon Mincy

1. Can Kyle Fuller build off a 2017 breakout?

A year ago, it would’ve been unbelievable to hear Fuller would be fifth highest-paid cornerback in the NFL by average annual salary, ahead of two guys (A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore) in whom the Bears had interest in free agency. This was a guy who — justifiably, given he missed all of 2016 with an injury — didn’t have his fifth year option picked up and wasn’t even assured of a roster spot coming into training camp.

But Fuller earned that paycheck with an outstanding season. Consider:

No cornerback was targeted more times than Fuller last year, even though only 51 percent of those targets were caught and he led the NFL in passes defended with 17, according to Pro Football Focus. Fuller held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 69 when they threw his way, good for 17th among all cornerbacks.

“His preparation Is second to none,” fellow cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “How he prepares for games and how he anticipates what’s going on —  I feel like I prepared enough but when I watched him and how he does it before games there’s a lot I can learn from him and I’m just glad he’s back because he’s going to improve my game a little more and hopefully I can help him improve his.”

Why opposing teams targeted Fuller so much when Amukamara allowed a higher quarterback rating (89.1), didn’t have an interception and only broke up five passes is still a head-scratcher of sorts. But if Fuller wasn’t respected last year by opposing offensive coordinators, he will be in 2018.

So the goal for Fuller will be to be even more stifling when the ball is thrown his way. Adding a few more interceptions — he only had two last year, and both came in December — would go a long way toward him earning that four-year, $56 million offer sheet the Bears had to match.

2. Where will the interceptions come from?

The Bears are the only team in NFL history to record eight or fewer interceptions in three consecutive seasons, and Ryan Pace doubled down on an outside cornerback pairing of Fuller and Amukamara that only produced two interceptions in 2017. Nickel corner Bryce Callahan showed a bit of a playmaking streak last year with two interceptions (and a pretty sweet punt return touchdown in Week 1).

But that only accounts for four picks, a number which was equaled or eclipsed by 13 cornerbacks in 2017. All the pressure to get takeaways isn’t on Amukamara, Fuller, Callahan and a handful of reserves — Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos will need to contribute more too — but given the questions surrounding the Bears’ pass rush, increasing the interceptions generated from this unit will be important for the overall success of the defense.

So if you see Fuller or Amukamara pick off Mitch Trubisky in Bourbonnais, perhaps look at it as good thing (it’ll be a learning experience for Trubisky, too, which isn’t a bad thing either).

3. Will any of the intriguing UDFAs make the team?

The Bears, a little surprisingly, didn’t draft a cornerback in April, but did sign a handful of undrafted free agents that will have an opportunity to fight for a roster spot in training camp. Two players in particular will be interesting to watch in July and August: Kevin Toliver II and John Franklin III.

Toliver is a former five-star recruit who didn’t live up to that hype at LSU, only intercepting two passes in 31 career games. The 6-foot-2 Toliver has projectable size and length, but his lack of production was why he went undrafted after leaving Baton Rouge following his junior season. He’s the kind of high-upside guy undrafted free agent who could garner some attention in training camp with a few good practices, but will have to consistently prove to the defensive coaching staff and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor he’s worthy of a roster spot.

Franklin may be more of a long shot, but the former “Last Chance U” star nonetheless will be a fascinating watch in Bourbonnais. The former quarterback-turned-receiver is now trying to not only make an NFL roster, but is trying to do so while learning an entirely different position on the side of the ball on which he’s never played before. Franklin had a healthy perspective on learning how to play cornerback during OTAs and minicamp (https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/bears/last-chance-u-john-franklin-iii-chicago-bears-nfl-defensive-back-quarterback-wide-receiver), and the Bears saw something in his raw speed and athleticism to give him a shot on defense. It’d be a surprise if Franklin earned a spot on the 53-man roster, but it’d be one heck of a story if he even wound up on the Bears’ practice squad come September.