Adrian Amos’ rise from fifth-round draft pick to every-game starter should serve as motivation for every member of the Bears’ 2016 draft class not named Leonard Floyd or Cody Whitehair: If you prove yourself, you’ll play, draft selection be damned. The Bears want a youth movement.
Here’s a look at three mid-to-late-round rookies who appear to be well on their way to earning a role this season.
DE Jonathan Bullard
Bullard, the third-round pick from Florida, felt small when he met his new teammates.
“I walked in the room [and] everybody is so much bigger than me,” he said. “I’m like 282 [pounds], everybody else is 310 to 330. [I thought] they’re about to tell me I’ve got to get big.”
But the Bears didn’t. As with Floyd, they covet Bullard’s speed, particularly his get-off at the snap. Adding too much weight would hinder that.
And the Bears want Bullard to be different from the current starters in their base 3-4 defense: Akiem Hicks (6-5, 336 pounds), Eddie Goldman (6-4, 320) and Mitch Unrein (6-4, 299).
“They’re more strong and powerful guys,” Bullard said. “I’m probably going to be a quick, twitchy guy.”
Bullard is confident in his strength, believing he can handle two holes and double-teams up front, but it’s obvious his speed and quickness make him unique. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, known to greatly value having different player types at his disposal, said he hopes Bullard
can play “a fair amount in every game.”
Bullard was part of the No. 2 defensive line in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Denver Broncos, playing before 2014 second-round pick Ego Ferguson. He tackled running back Devontae Booker for a one-yard loss in the second quarter.
“I’m going to be the guy that hopefully Vic moves a lot, shoots the gaps, takes a few chances with and [who can] play within the defense and make plays,” Bullard said.
CB Deiondre’ Hall
In general, Hall said, it’s bad if a cornerback is busy on game day. But since Thursday was his first NFL game, Hall didn’t mind that Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian went after him twice in the end zone.
“It would be able to help me in the long term,” said Hall, a fourth-round pick from Northern Iowa.
Hall’s confidence grew after he batted away consecutive passes to Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor. His technique wasn’t perfect — he needs to turn his head — but he still got the job done.
“A [pass breakup] is always a confidence booster,” he said. “It gives you a little extra swag to what you’re doing. It definitely helped me a lot, but I gave up a few short passes that could have been stopped.”
The competition at cornerback opposite veteran Tracy Porter is wide open. Kyle Fuller isn’t viewed as a sure thing, and Bryce Callahan needs to prove he’s durable.
At 6-2 and 201 pounds, Hall fits Fangio’s preference for big cornerbacks. He also played on the first kickoff unit against the Broncos.
His arm length, like an offensive tackle’s, makes him special. Assistant secondary coach Sam Garnes said Hall’s rules for technique differ because of it.
“[It’s] eyes, hands and feet, and then just staying patient,” Hall said. “I’m longer than pretty much everybody else out there, so I’ll be able to get my hands on a lot quicker.”
Hall said becoming a cornerback who excels in press coverage is a process, but he already was able to show Thursday how useful his long arms can be.
“When I see those receivers’ eyes get really big, and you see that ball slowly come down to that cradle, you know you want to put them hands up,” he said. “I thought I did a pretty good job of that.”
WR Daniel Braverman
Braverman doesn’t read his clippings. If fans and reporters thought he was a standout in Bourbonnais, he didn’t know it.
“I try to avoid it and not get too deep into it because I also know it’s the past and this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-now league,” Braverman said. “The catch you made yesterday doesn’t do anything for you today. You can’t get hung up in all that stuff.”
Right now, Braverman’s focus is on punts. He was the first punt returner behind Marc Mariani and returned two for no yards Thursday.
“It’s a learning process, a learning curve in the first game,” Braverman said. “Everything comes into fruition when you watch film.”
His early success at receiver turned into playing time with quarterback Brian Hoyer and the second-team offense.
“His short-area quickness is phenomenal,” receivers coach Curtis Johnson said. “He can separate very, very well. And he understands the overall game of where the ball is going to be.”
But as a seventh-round pick, Braverman needs to deliver on special teams, even if it’s as a reliable reserve at first. He returned punts and kickoffs at Western Michigan, but the NFL is different, starting with hang times and the speed of coverage teams.
“I need to show value in any spot they put me in,” Braverman said. “They’re putting me in there to play. They’re putting me in there to make a play.”