The Chicago Bears hiring Chuck Pagano was met with relative acclaim from most players, coaches, and media. While his head coaching run may not have made him many fans, there are plenty who still view the veteran coach as a top defensive specialist. If he maintains the same form he had in Baltimore, the Bears defense should be in good hands.
That said, there is one undeniable truth. They’re still in different hands. Pagano is not Vic Fangio. People cannot and should not expect him to run things exactly the same way it’s been for the past four years. Pagano has his own preferences and ideas about how a defense should operate and there’s no way they all fall in line with Fangio’s style.
Bucky Brooks, a former player and scout who is now a top analyst for NFL Network, broke down one of the key differences that will show up in Pagano’s system.
“Based on Pagano’s history as a defensive coordinator and secondary coach, the Bears will be more aggressive under his direction. He believes in bringing blitz pressure and using man coverage behind it. That’s a drastic change for a Chicago defense that relied on four-man rushes and the occasional zone-blitz to heat up the quarterback. That said, Pagano’s preferred tight man coverage should eliminate some of the layups and quick passes opponents are creating to prop up their quarterbacks. Most importantly, the added pressure will lead to more sacks, turnovers and negative plays.”
This is interesting. It sounds great at first. People have clamored for more aggressiveness from the defense. There may be one small problem though. Not everybody who has to play that style may want to.
Bears hiring Chuck Pagano may not sit well with Kyle Fuller
Kyle Fuller is one of the best success stories in recent Bears history. He was a 1st round pick in 2014, suffered through significant ups and downs his first two years and then missed all of his third with a knee injury. He came back strong in 2017, got a new contract and made All-Pro in 2018. That’s about as impressive a career turnaround as one has seen in Chicago.
A huge part of that was Fangio. He and Fuller got closer over the past couple of years, sharing time on the golf course among other things. Fangio got him to buy into what the Bears were trying to do and it turned out that Fuller was actually a good fit for the system. One of the key facets of the style was keeping everything in front of you, which often meant frequent zone coverages.
That was perfect for Fuller since it fed his strengths as a cornerback. He’s shown he can play man coverage. The issue is his overall lack of top speed has gotten him into trouble whenever asked to do it too often. The video above features just a couple of examples. So what will happen if Pagano asks him to do it significantly more often?
Fuller was targeted by opposing QBs 105 times this past season. That was with him mostly playing his customary off-man style. If he shifts to press man as Brooks suggests, that could open up the defense to more big plays. Not to mention diminish the effectiveness of one of their best players.