The Curious Case Of Kyle Fuller
Diving into the method and the madness behind the Bears All-Pro corner.
Kyle Fuller isn’t your typical NFL cornerback. He doesn’t talk trash off the field, have a presence on social media, or enjoy answering questions. He shows up, does his job, and returns to his quiet lifestyle. Because of this, it’s easy to lose sight of his role on the team or the adversity he’s faced in his career, but honestly, I don’t think Kyle would have it any other way.
The 2014 first-round pick was expected to be the Bears shutdown corner for the next decade. He showed his promise early, finishing his rookie season with four interceptions and three forced fumbles. Comparisons to Chicago Bears’ great Charles Tillman began to dominate headlines and the rookie was seen as the bright spot on an aging defense.
From there, the story gets complicated. After a lackluster sophomore campaign in 2015 and a knee injury sidelining him for all of 2016, many questioned whether the Virginia Tech product would ever live up to his draft position. Many questioned his consistency, talent, and even his toughness, specifically his defensive coordinator at the time, Vic Fangio.
“Any time a guy’s hurt, there’s three stages to getting back to the field. One, you’ve got to get medical clearance. Two, the player’s got to say he’s ready to go and feels confident and he’s champing at the bit to go play. And then the coaches get involved and see if he’s better than what the other choices are and if he really is back to being able to play. A has happened. B hasn’t. So C is a non-issue.”– Former Bears’ Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio on Kyle Fuller, 2016
With his fifth-year option being declined as he was quickly falling out of favor with the coaching staff, Kyle Fuller entered 2017 with a lot to prove to the organization. After almost being cut before the end of training camp, Kyle responded by having his best season yet, finishing the season with 69 tackles, 22 pass deflections (T-2nd), and two interceptions. This season proved to pay off for Fuller, who received a four-year, $56 million dollar deal from the Bears after they matched Green Bay’s offer, due to the transition tag.
Many have wondered whether or not it was an overpay on Chicago’s part. Did Kyle Fuller truly deserve such a large contract after one great season? Let’s look to his statistics for the answer.
In 2018, Fuller was selected to his first Pro Bowl and received All-Pro honors, finishing the season with 55 tackles, 21 pass deflections (1st) and seven interceptions (T-1st). Kyle also only allowed a measly 56.2% completion percentage, 63.7 passer rating, four touchdowns, and 237 yards after catch, according to Pro Football Reference. Becoming a key contributor on one of the best defenses in the NFL, Fuller began receiving recognition among the top players in the game.
In 2019, Kyle didn’t see the same success as the previous season. While an All-Pro season is always nearly impossible to recreate, he still produced at a high level on another top defensive squad. In his first season under new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, Fuller finished 2019 with 82 tackles, 12 pass deflections and three interceptions. Fuller also saw a dip in his advanced numbers, allowing a 70.8% completion percentage and 102 passer rating, but showed his same level of limiting yards after the catch, allowing just 255 yards.
Overall, while a significant rise in completion percentage and passer rating might be seen as worrisome, Fuller still showed off his ability to stop the play after the catch, which has been a core element of his playstyle in which he stays five to seven yards above the line of scrimmage. Catches are bound to happen against any corner playing this way, but what sets Fuller apart is his ability to prevent big completions down the field and to play physical past five yards. If the last three seasons are any indication of what Kyle Fuller has in front of him, the Bears should have nothing to worry about.