In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears drafted defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard out of the University of Florida. They hoped that he would become a solid defensive lineman and a future starter. But, after he struggled in 2016 the Bears were left scratching their heads. With an offseason filled with improvements, has Bullard saved his career?
In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears selected defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard out of the University of Florida. Bullard had a productive collegiate career and was considered a real steal in the third-round last year. Several draft prognosticators thought that Chicago made the right choice as they got a first to second round talent in the third round. You heard the word “steal” being mentioned. Had the Bears made out with that pick?
Bullard ended up underachieving in his first year in the NFL. He did not see the field nearly as much as anyone thought that he would and had just 297 defensive snaps. The Bears kept him inactive for two games to boot. Bullard ended the season starting just one game. He recorded 18 total tackles with 15 solo and three assisted. He had just one sack from a defensive position that is supposed to get to the quarterback often.
The young defensive lineman must have realized that he had to do something to improve himself and help out his teammates. To get better, he did what the team asked him to do and put on more weight. In 2016, he weighed around 282 pounds, but he added 14 pounds during the offseason to bulk up to 296. This made it harder for him to get pushed around by opposing offensive linemen and so far, in the first two preseason games, we have seen that this has not affected his speed.
Bullard has changed his attitude and is prepared to handle the rigors of football and become the player everyone thought he could be.
If you have attended any of the training camp sessions, you may have seen that Bullard put on quite a show. He has displayed the athleticism that you want in a 3-4 defensive end. He is constantly hustling and looks like he is enjoying himself. It looks like his hard work has paid off as he has become a playmaker. Now he just needs to be consistent.
In Chicago’s first two preseason games, Bullard has shined. Against Denver, he registered two key tackles including a tackle for a loss on a third and one play. This past Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals, Bullard had three tackles. Unfortunately, he left the game with an injury to his backside. Right now, the status of the injury and how much time he might miss is unknown.
This resurgence by Bullard is both good for him and the Bears. Turning things around by making improvements and playing better is going to secure him a spot on the roster. It helps the Bears because they would not have wasted a third round pick on a player they would have had to cut a year after drafting him. Third round picks are valuable so letting him walk after a year would have been a huge disappointment. So his development is a win-win for both sides.
You can expect Bullard to have a solid season for Chicago as he works into the defensive end rotation. If he can capture some of the magic that he had in college, he will be a valuable asset. And Chicago needs all the help they can get on defense.
The Bears’ defensive line could be one of the best they have had in several seasons. If they are blessed with good health and can get the most out of guys like Bullard and Eddie Goldman, they will be a top-10 unit.
Look for this group to be at the top of their game and be a part of why the Bears will have a strong defense.