Rookie Kyle Fuller faces formidable competition for playing time
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter June 19, 2014 10:18PM
Updated: July 21, 2014 4:10PM
It’s difficult for any rookie to make an impact in a minicamp, but especially so for cornerback Kyle Fuller.
The Bears’ first-round draft pick from Virginia Tech not only is playing behind two established starters in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, but he’s going up against two of the best receivers in the NFL in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
When Tillman was a rookie in 2003, he was trying to beat out Roosevelt Williams for the nickel spot behind Jerry Azumah and R.W. McQuarters and going up against Marty Booker, David Terrell and Dez White in practice.
It’s a big difference, as Fuller discovered early in the offseason.
“Just the speed of it,” Fuller said after the Bears concluded minicamp Thursday at Halas Hall. “Going against Brandon and Alshon, big, strong guys, it definitely woke me up and let me know where I’m at.”
That said, Fuller showed about the only skill that counts for a rookie at a mini-camp — he learns well.
“We were all impressed with how quickly he caught on and was able to adapt to what we’re trying to do — he fit in right away,” Jennings said.
“We expect a lot of things from him.”
“He’s a very, very talented young player who knows football, has very good instincts for the game,” secondary coach Jon Hoke said. “He’s an enjoyable guy to coach.”
It’s unlikely to be very pretty when Fuller practices in pads in training camp in Bourbonnais next month. But responding to a competitive situation is part of the process that theoretically will get the most out of Fuller.
Probably no player in camp will have more competition every step of the way — the Bears not only have two strong starters at cornerback, but two established nickel backs in Kelvin Hayden and Isaiah Frey.
And wherever Fuller lines up, he’ll face a formidable and taller foe in Marshall, Jeffery or tight end Martellus Bennett operating in an offense that ranked second in the NFL in points last season.
So it was no surprise that the buzz over Fuller has been muted so far.
“He has what it takes to be a good player for us,” was defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s measured evaluation this week.
But he’s in a tough spot against Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett in practice.
“He’s done a good job,” Tucker said.
“Kyle doesn’t back down from a challenge. He’s always going to look to make plays. He’s around the ball quite a bit, and he looks like he belongs out there.
“We’ve just got to keep getting him better, and he’s got to learn the system and learn where his help is and what technique we want him to play and then continue to progress.”
Fuller can’t wait for the next step.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I feel like it went well. I feel like I got better. I’m looking forward to going to training camp and continuing to grow.”