Cornerback Kyle Fuller. (AP)

Kyle Fuller becoming a difference-maker for solid Bears defense

SHARE Kyle Fuller becoming a difference-maker for solid Bears defense
SHARE Kyle Fuller becoming a difference-maker for solid Bears defense

PODCAST IN PRINT: The Chicago Sun-Times’ Adam L. Jahns and WGN Radio’s Adam Hoge have co-hosted a Bears podcast since the 2015 season. The “Hoge & Jahns Podcast” can be found on chicago.suntimes.com and wgnradio.com. It’s also available on the WGN Radio app, iTunes and the TuneIn app.

Adam L. Jahns: How did you feel about the Bears’ wild overtime victory against the Ravens, Adam? I feel some fans are quite torn. One season-ticket holder who traveled to Baltimore for thh game actually texted me, asking, “I’m confused. How should I feel after this game? Like the W … but?” To me, you take it. Fans need to enjoy every win. The Bears, certainly, do.

Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Bears’ run game deservedly received plenty of attention, but the defense was outstanding throughout the game — specifically cornerback Kyle Fuller. You’ve had a good read on Fuller for some time. If he continues to play this well, I think the Bears must re-sign him.

Adam Hoge: You take the win, but the Bears had a chance to put the Ravens away and instead nearly coughed up the win. That doesn’t give you much confidence with the Panthers coming to town Sunday. One thing we do know is that this defense is going to give the Bears a chance to win most weeks. They’ve been good all season. In Baltimore, they were great and that was because they were able to create takeaways. For the first time in a long time, the Bears’ secondary has a little swagger. Fuller and safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson are hitting hard and playing with an edge. Fuller has been a huge part of that. My understanding is that he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio bonded in the offseason. It was a significant development after Fangio questioned Fuller’s desire to get back on the field last season. The cornerback came back very motivated after the Bears didn’t pick up his fifth-year option and instead signed two veterans and immediately inserted them as starters. Fuller is healthy now and has some confidence back. If he keeps this up, the Bears are certainly going to have to think about bringing him back. It will be a position of need in the offseason, and he’s still only 25.

Jahns: I never liked the arguments that Fuller was a bad fit for Fangio’s scheme. Sure, he was drafted into a Cover-2 heavy system but former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker — remember him? — still used man coverages. Fuller has the size that Fangio likes. He’s also fast and athletic. He can transcend scheme. What I like most about him is how physical he is in run support. Fuller seems to upend a ball carrier at least once per game. He’s also physical in coverage. Fangio likes that. He challenges receivers. He plays receivers’ hands violently on contested throws. The interceptions will come, too. Again, if this continues, the Bears have to re-sign him.

Hoge: One of the reasons why former Bears general manager Phil Emery drafted Fuller in the first round in 2014 was because of his versatility. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster used Fuller in his “whip” position — an outside linebacker/nickel back hybrid who has to blitz, stop the run and cover wide receivers. That’s why Fuller is physical in run support and a reason why I’ve always thought he’d be good in the slot if he couldn’t play outside in the NFL. But right now, he’s doing just fine on the outside. Let’s see if he can take another step forward this week against Panthers receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess. That really goes for the entire secondary. Can Fuller, Amos and Jackson stack a few great performances together with Cam Newton and Drew Brees on deck?

Jahns: Brees will be the real test. That’s on the road in a loud dome, and he’s simply better than Newton, who looks like an MVP one week and then flounders the next. Consistency? The Bears, as a team, have struggled to build off wins under John Fox. But I’ve seen enough from Fangio’s defense. They are consistently good. They might make mistakes and they might get beat, but that’s life for every defense in the NFL every week. Overall, the Bears’ secondary has been much better than expected. I don’t want to get too carried away, but if Fuller, Amos and Jackson continue to play this well, general manager Ryan Pace’s plan for the offseason will include fewer objectives and needs. He can focus on outside linebacker and receiver.

Hoge: Consistency is the key word. This team still needs to learn how to play four consistent quarters. They failed to do that against the Ravens and nearly blew the game. The Bears haven’t won two games in a row since Weeks 9 and 10 of the 2015 season. Part of building a culture is learning how to win close games. And even though this team has managed to win two games in overtime this year, I’m still not sure how many people trust the Bears in the fourth quarter. That was a physical football game on Sunday, the kind that can have lingering effects a week later. The Panthers are coming off a Thursday game and will be more rested. This will be a tough test, but if Fuller, Amos and the defense build on last week’s performance, the Bears will have a chance.


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