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Bears Mon Aug 24 2015
Three games into the 2014 regular season, everyone thought the Bears were on track to having a Pro Bowl cornerback. Kyle Fuller was playing fast and instinctive, and making former GM Phil Emery look brilliant for scoring big in the first round of two consecutive drafts. Unfortunately, the level of play Fuller showed against San Francisco and New York didn't last.
Over the remainder of the season, Fuller struggled mightily. Pro Football Focus graded him positively in just two games following his magnificent weeks two and three, and those came against and Atlanta team that dropped a ton of passes, and a Minnesota team that lacked anything resembling a playmaker at wide receiver. Fuller finished as the second-worst corner in the NFL.
Everyone's hope was that it was poor coaching on the part of Mel Tucker; that Vic Fangio could come in and get him playing like he did in the early parts of 2014. Maybe he just needs more time, but the early results are not good so far in the preseason.
In the limited time the first team defense has gotten in live action, Fuller has done a nice job in helping with the run, but hasn't looked like the number one corner the Bears were hoping they had. Instead, he's looking more like a guy who you hope can cover slot receivers and set the edge if the opposing offense runs out of passing formations.
Fuller was beaten badly twice in Saturday night's game against Indianapolis. The big play came early in the second quarter in man coverage against T.Y. Hilton, who burned Fuller on a simple post route for a 45-yard game. To make matters worse, Fuller kept himself tangled up with Hilton after the play, and picked up a 15-yard taunting penalty for his trouble. The gain eventually led to the only Colts touchdown of the game.
On the next Colts possession, Andrew Luck once again picked on Fuller, but this time on the other end of the spectrum. With Fuller playing off the line of scrimmage, Luck fired a one-step bullet out to rookie WR Phillip Dorsett, who juked Fuller out of his shoes and picked up eight yards. The cardinal sin of trying to stop someone one-on-one with space between you is to stop your feet, and that's exactly what Fuller did.
The sophomore corner is inching closer to losing confidence in himself simply because he hasn't had anything go right for him on the football field recently. He needs to focus on being physical and not allowing receivers space to do their work. Any time the guy he's covering separates himself, Fuller's done. Being in the receivers face at the point of attack may get him beat from time to time, but it'll also put him in position to make some of the big plays Bears fans got used to seeing at the beginning of his rookie season.
A leap back up to being a top flight corner isn't necessary to justify where Fuller was selected, but steady improvement over the final two preseason games and early in the 2015 regular season are going to be incredibly important for his long-term future. Perpetually losing one-on-one matchups can't last forever, because a new coaching staff with no prior connection will put you on the bench if they can't trust you.