Vic Fangio Believes This Bears Defender Is Primed For a Breakout

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Nam Y. Huh/AP

Seems the Vic Fangio Jonathan Bullard narrative just took a shift. Most Chicago Bears fans are focused on what the newest influx of free agents and draft picks are going to do to help the team. That’s understandable. Especially coming off a 3-13 season. Then again there are ways a team improves that sometimes people tend to overlook. A big one being the natural development of young players still on the roster. That includes the 2016 third round pick.

Bullard didn’t contribute quite like many hoped in his rookie season. This despite coming in with a lot of buzz about his mixture of size, burst and quickness. To be fair that’s often normal for rookies. Not everybody goes the way of Jordan Howard, rocketing out of the gate to a Pro Bowl in his first try. Most typically take at least a year to get things clicking.

Fangio understands this reality well. A man known for his blunt honesty, he was limited in any sort of praise for Bullard last season. That seems to be changing.

Vic Fangio Jonathan Bullard project is showing results

“Well Jon didn’t play a whole lot last year,” Fangio said. “And hopefully he’s ready — you always look for a lot of improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. I think he’s better prepared now to play in the trenches of the NFL than he was last year. He’s gotten a little bit bigger. I think his mentality — he understands more of what’s expected of him playing in the NFL, in the trenches. I don’t think he was quite ready for that last year, both physically or mentally, emotionally I think he’s more ready. We’re hopeful that he does well.”

There’s reason to think this will be the case for Bullard. Typically players make their biggest leap in the second year. Towards the end of 2016 there were flashes that the young defensive lineman was starting to pick things up. He made a couple nice plays including a tackle for loss against Washington where his technique and strength both showed up.

If he’s indeed bigger and stronger than last year and maintained that burst and quickness that made him so dangerous at Florida? There is no doubt he can fill that final spot on the defensive line next to Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman. This could give the Bears one of the more intriguing and dynamic front sevens in the NFL. If nothing else that would ease the concerns people have over the secondary.

At the same time it would further validate the incredible job GM Ryan Pace did with that 2016 draft. Bullard has worked tirelessly all offseason, getting help from former Bears Pro Bowl alternate Alex Brown. All he requires at this point is an opportunity to show what he’s learned. Health permitting, that chance looms ever closer.

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Erik Lambert
Brainwashed by the sports culture as a wee lad, Erik was educated to be a writer at the prestigious Columbia College. He has spent the past 10 years covering the Bears.