Position Battles (Starters):
Kyle Fuller is going to have to step up this season and play like the 14th overall pick he was back in 2014. He showed flashes early in his rookie year and late in his sophomore season that he could be a shut-down, play-making corner, but the big plays were too few and far between for the Bears to be sure in what they have in Fuller. He has the size (6’0. 192), speed (4.49), and athleticism to be a #1 corner in the NFL but has to play more consistently this season to lock down his spot in the secondary.
Fuller has struggled with adjusting with his back to the ball and also being too aggressive in press coverage, but has also shown the ability to make plays in zone coverage and the awareness to come off his man to make plays when they are there. A second year under DB coach Vic Donatell and a reported increase in confidence could lead to a breakout season for Fuller. The Bears will need him to be at least improved from last season as he’ll often be locked up against the top receivers in the league this year.
If Fuller can’t make the leap to #1 corner, then veteran Tracy Porter will be tasked with doing it again as he was forced to last season. Porter did an admirable job, even against players like Calvin Johnson, and despite a massive height discrepancy he still held his own but he is better suited as a #2 CB. Porter was the Bears best corner last year and if he can stay healthy again, he could team with Fuller to give the Bears two above-average corners for the first time since Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.
The biggest battle for a starting position at corner will come at the slot position, which is basically a starting role with how often teams run 3-WR sets. Bryce Callahan was one of the most pleasant surprises on the Bears defense last season, stepping up to show he could not only play tough against slot receivers but contribute verse the run despite being undersized (5’10, 185). Callahan is a freak athlete with a 43″ vertical and a 40 timed as low as 4.35.
Despite Callahan’s breakout season, he’ll have his hands full fighting off free agent Brandon Boykin for the starting slot role. Boykin was Pro Football Focus’ top slot corner in 2013 with the Eagles but has spent the last two season feuding with coaches Chip Kelly and Mike Tomlin. He may have spent most of the last two seasons on the sidelines but just turned 26 in July and has eight interceptions, 36 pass breakups, and 5 forced fumbles in just seven starts over his four NFL seasons.
Boykin is a play-maker which is exactly what the Bears defense needs. Callahan has a year’s head start learning the defensive scheme so could have an edge for the starting slot role, but the dime defense will be better with them both on the field.
Next: Positon Battles (Back-ups)