With the start of training camp closing quickly, let’s take a look at the three Chicago Bears rookies most poised to make an impact in 2014. It’s no surprise that every one of the rookies to watch plays defense:
CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech: “Duh,” you might say, considering the Bears spent the No. 14 overall pick on Fuller. But what might make Fuller most impactful as a rookie is his versatility. The Bears have talked about moving Fuller inside to cover slot receivers in some packages and outside on others. We’ve already seen the Bears experiment with playing Fuller outside in nickel packages while shifting starter Tim Jennings inside to the slot spot.
More than likely, we’ll see the Bears tinker even more with Fuller throughout the preseason, and if the rookie proves capable of consistently performing what’s asked, he’ll help defensive coordinator Mel Tucker achieve a higher level of diversity in terms of play calls. Fuller possesses the necessary speed (4.49-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine) and explosion (38.5-inch vertical), but he’ll need to consistently flash that athleticism against NFL-level competition. The Bears plan to give Fuller every opportunity to do so.
“What impresses me is he’s eager to learn,” Jennings said. “He’s eager to be here. He’s like a sponge. In the classroom, you could tell how focused he is and eager to learn, and once we got on the field, he’s on it.”
While it appears the Bears plan to play Jennings at the nickel, we could see Fuller at the spot depending on the opponent and matchups, which is why it will be important for the rookie to cross train during training camp.
“Well, the nickel spot for us can be complicated at times,” Tucker said. “You want a guy that has very good football IQ, good instincts, and a guy that has a good demeanor in terms of poise inside. You need a guy that can play tight man coverage when you need to get off the field in third-and-medium type downs; a guy who can break on the ball in zone and match patterns in zone; and a guy that can give you something as a blitzer, just a credible threat off the edge to create one on ones for other guys, and if he can get on a back and win on an edge or things like that, that’s what you look for at that spot, among other things.”