Willie Young to Bears: 'I would like to finish my career up here in Chicago'

Willie Young to Bears: 'I would like to finish my career up here in Chicago'

This time a year ago Willie Young was coming off a career season marked by a team-best 10 sacks. But he was also coming off a season-ending achilles injury and into a defensive scheme unlike what he’d played previously in either Detroit or Chicago.

He played his way back into increasingly better health, and eventually finished the season with 6.5 sacks — second only to linebacker Lamarr Houston.

"Luckily, guys like Lamar and Willie kind of picked up and healed up as we went," head coach John Fox said during this year's owners meetings.

But Young also saw longtime defensive end Jared Allen traded away early in the season from an ill-fitting job at 3-4 outside linebacker to a 4-3 Carolina Panthers Super Bowl team. Musings around the NFL were that Young also wanted to be in a familiar system that used him as a pass-rushing end rather than the 3-4 role that involved the alien act of dropping into pass coverage — going in the literal opposite direction from which Young had built his career.

Young shot down those rumors. “Never did I want to be out of Chicago,” he said Wednesday.

And he may not be anytime soon. What has transpired has been another form of opposite direction, with the Bears expressing interest in adding time to Young’s contract — which expires after this season.

Young has made his thoughts clear: “I would like to be here long-term, absolutely. I would like to finish my career up here in Chicago.”

Whether that happens is in the hands of Young’s agent and the Bears organization. Young last season playfully refused to acknowledge even the suggestion that he was a linebacker, but now even brings up pass defense as something he actually plans to stress.

“I really feel like I showed them I could play the run and rush the quarterback last year,” Young said. “Now I’ll be a lot more emphasis on my personal goals; a lot more emphasis on showing them that I can actually cover, too. Whatever’s going to help me out in the long run and help this team out, I’m all about it.”


Trubisky on NFC North QBs: 'Bring 'em on'

USA Today

Trubisky on NFC North QBs: 'Bring 'em on'

The NFC North was recently dubbed the most talented quarterback division in the NFL largely because of Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins and Matthew Stafford.

Bears starter Mitch Trubisky may eventually be viewed as an elite quarterback someday, but his average rookie season has created some doubt among analysts about whether he'll ever be that guy.

In a recent sit-down with Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne, Trubisky said he isn't concerned with outside opinion, nor is he intimidated by the resumes of his NFC North counterparts.

"I've realized that these people you look up to—watching Aaron Rodgers, watching Tom Brady—they're humans just like I am," Trubisky told Dunne. "They can make mistakes. They're just people. We've all been through similar things to get to where we are now. ... As a competitor, you want the biggest, tallest challenge you can possibly ask for.

"So, yeah, give me the division with Aaron Rodgers, Stafford and Kirk Cousins. Bring 'em on."

Trubisky's confidence has been evident this offseason. There's no doubt who the Bears' leader in the locker room is. Just ask Kyle Long.

Still, he's not without his critics, something he said he doesn't consume himself with.

"Why would I be worried about what anybody has to say on the outside?" he said. "You're sitting in a chair talking into a microphone. I'm in the war. I'm in the middle of the hurricane."

Trubisky's name is consistently mentioned after DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes whenever the 2017 quarterback class is discussed and few -- if any -- experts expect him to be the best of the three.

But none of that matters. All Trubisky has to be is a winner in Chicago, and he certainly has the confidence needed to get there.

"So get ready," he said. "I'm going to be prepared. I'm going to give you everything I've got. Hopefully, I make people eat their words with what they say about me."

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.