How Green Bay Can Beat Bears' Kyle Fuller
Nine defensive backs were drafted in the first round of this year's NFL draft, and we get to see two of the most highly touted this week at Soldier Field. We know plenty about the Packers' Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, so let's examine Chicago's Kyle Fuller.
Fuller has played the hero in two of Chicago's first three games. Losing Charles Tillman was enormous for the Bears' defense, but Fuller has picked up his playmaking duties virtually seamlessly, creating turnovers and basically wreaking havoc for opposing offenses.
The numbers guys love him too: through the first three weeks, Pro Football Focus has Fuller rated as Chicago's best defensive player, posting an overall rating of +5.9.
With three interceptions in two games, you don't need to be a genius to figure out that coverage is Fuller's forte. While he's been victimized in the run game a couple times (and what corner isn't?), Fuller has been as close to a lockdown corner as a rookie can be. He gave up one catch to Sammy Watkins against Buffalo in Week 1, his worst coverage.
Since then, he's given up just seven catches on 13 passes headed his way. For the sake of comparison, the Packers' best cover man, Sam Shields, has allowed receptions on 10 of the 14 passes thrown his way this year.
So what makes Fuller so good?
Two things: excellent physical attributes and absolute fearlessness.
In a second I'll show you a highlight video that demonstrates the second point, but as to the first, they should be obvious. He's 6-0 and 194 pounds, which is a big, thick build for a cornerback. On top of that, Fuller has nearly 33-inch arms, long for his height. I know it sounds like a tiny thing, but an extra couple inches can make a huge difference. Long arms allow defensive backs to play just that much farther off a receiver on the line, giving them maybe another fraction of a second to close on a ball or break on a receiver's route. It allows them to play around the bodies of big receivers like Calvin Johnson and reach to break up passes when they may be just a step behind. Fuller has them, and he uses them well.
The second things I mentioned was Fuller's fearless play. He tackles with little regard for his own body, and he closes in on a ballcarrier with tremendous ferocity. I'm skeptical of showing highlights to make a point, but Fuller's tenacious tackling is on full display in this highlight video.
So what does this mean for the Packers?
Well, with Charles Tillman out, the Bears will really only have a stopper at corner on one side, which could free up room to roam for Randall Cobb or whomever is opposite Jordy Nelson. It will also be interesting to see how Fuller matches up against Nelson and Cobb when he faces them.
He's done well in coverage so far, but the best receiver he's faced has been Steve Johnson, and while Johnson is funny on Twitter, he's a couple years removed from his last really strong season in Buffalo. Fuller's battle with the Packers receivers will be one to watch on Sunday.