Cornerback is one of the most difficult positions to play in football, and it has only gotten harder recently with all the rules benefiting receivers. With the game becoming more and more pass happy, the need for quality corners has increased if you want to be successful on defense. The Bears returned their starting corners from 2017, and they were able to put together one of the best seasons out of the position in recent memory.
I took a closer look at the performance of all the corners who saw significant playing time and graded them out here.
“I’m really looking for a 10-pick season,” is what Amukamara told the Chicago Tribune in an interview back in July. This was a little surprising, consideringhe never had a season with more than three picks.
Well, while he did come up a little shy of ten with only three picks again, he had his best year in the league thus far.
Amukamara had 12 deflections and added two forced fumbles, making it statistically his best season. He also added 66 tackles, good for fourth on the team. A key pick-six sealed a win against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2 as well:
Prince Amukamara coming up big with the Pick-6 in the fourth quarter for the Bears!
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 18, 2018
While Amukamara did not shut down his side of the field on a weekly basis, he played very strongly and was a key component of a pass defense that ranked towards the top of the league in almost every category. He also rarely gave up huge plays, which is always encouraging to see.
He signed a three-year extension with the team a year ago, meaning he will be here for a minimum of another two seasons. 2018 was Amukamara’s best season as pro and hopefully he is able to build on his successes moving forward.
McManis did not see the field a great deal this season, but when he did, he was solid. When Callahan went down with a broken foot, many thought the Bears defense would take a great step back, but McManis stepped into the starting slot corner role and played very well.
He did not fill the stat sheet, producing only one pick and four pass deflections, but once again the stats do not paint the entire picture with McManis. His play on special teams makes him a very good depth player to have.
He has been with the Bears since 2012 mainly in a special teams role, but has been solid on defense as well throughout his tenure. He is currently on a two-year deal, so he will be returning to the team next season and providing some quality depth at the position.
Callahan emerged as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the league this season. He has come a long way from being an undrafted free agent out of Rice in 2015. Slot corner is a position that is becoming more and more necessary for a quality defense, as the majority of the league comes out in three receiver sets and that slot receiver is often their best target. Callahan was having one of the Bears’ strongest seasons before his unfortunate broken foot in Week 14, which sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
The diminutive yet effective slot corner ended up with two interceptions and six pass deflections. He was one of the best tacklers on the team with 45. He also added two sacks as Vic Fangio would often send him on corner blitzes, proving to be a very good blitzer from the corner spot.
The Bears’ offense was struggling against the pitiful Arizona Cardinals and rookie Josh Rosen earlier in the season, and they faced a fourth & 5 to essentially decide the game. Callahan came up big:
On 4th & 5… Josh Rosen's pass is PICKED by @chicagobears DB Bryce Callahan!
— NFL (@NFL) September 23, 2018
He was in great position here and broke on the pass and was able to come away with the pick to seal the game for the Bears. Callahan nailed his positioning throughout the entire season and was rarely beat by anyone coming out of the slot. When you pair up his coverage skills with his support against the run and blitzing, you come away with one of the premier slot corners in the league. He is set to become a free agent this offseason and it should definitely be a priority of Ryan Pace’s to get him signed.
We end our cornerback grades with a guy who had arguably the best season at the position in the NFL. Fuller has been scrutinized throughout his career due to his up-and-down play, but he did have a very solid 2017 year. Pace and the Bears also saw this, as they signed him to a four-year $56 million deal this offseason with $18 million guaranteed. Only four corners are signed to bigger contracts in the NFL.
Fuller was one of the main components to a defense that led the league in interceptions (27) and opponent passer rating (72.9).
He definitely stumbled out of the gate in the Bears opener against the Green Bay Packers. I hate to even bring this up because it still hurts, but if Fuller catches a pick that Aaron Rodgers hands him late in the game, then the Bears win that game and sweep the entire division. Here is the play if you’re trying to ruin your day:
#Bears CB Kyle Fuller has 7 INTs on the season through less than 13 full games.
His season started on Week 1 with a dropped INT of #Packers Aaron Rodgers that was thrown right to him and would've sealed the game.
He turned things around.pic.twitter.com/Ux2ywvqg9a
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 10, 2018
If he catches that, the Bears are 13-3 and get a bye. They don’t play the Eagles in the first round and Cody Parkey doesn’t even get a chance to break the entire city of Chicago’s hearts. It’s fine though, I’m over it (I’m not at all over it).
That being said, after that dropped pick, Fuller played lights out and didn’t look back. He ended the season tied for first in interceptions with seven and alone in first with 21 pass deflections. He definitely showed that he was worth the hefty contract in the offseason, being selected to the Pro Bowl and being named an All-Pro. If you want to get the bad image of the last video out of your head, you can check out his seven picks here:
SEVEN picks for Kyle Fuller in his first #ProBowl season! 🐻⬇️
📺: Pro Bowl | Tomorrow 3pm ET on ESPN + ABC + Disney XD pic.twitter.com/ITlRs0JBNr
— NFL (@NFL) January 27, 2019
Fuller had a superb season and is locked up long-term for the Bears. He will surely still have eyes on him next season, as people still want to see him chain together consecutive successful seasons. However, he should also enter 2019 with his confidence at an all time high, and confidence is essential for the corner position. I expect him to be one of the best cornerbacks in the game moving forward.
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