Fox likes the strides DE Bullard has made in Year 2

BOURBONNAIS — As a second-round pick (No. 51 overall) last year, Florida defensive end Jonathan Bullard wasn't a bust, but he didn't make much of an impact either.

In 14 games, Bullard had 24 tackles, tied for 15th on the team.

“Every rookie who comes into this league learns lessons,” coach John Fox said. “It's a different brand of football, a different type of game. The field markings are different. Everything about it is different. It's a longer season.

“We weren't disappointed with Jonathan. There's some growing pains that come with some rookies, and I think he's learned a lot. He's developed a pro body. I like what I've seen so far, and I'm looking forward to getting into game situations.”

Bullard has added some bulk and strength, but his improved ability to diagnose and react may be more important than his physical improvements.

“The game is way faster in this league,” Fox said. “He's got the athletic ability to do it (but) it's more mental as far as deciphering things, knowing things that are going to happen, just recognizing run and pass, just knowledge of the game at this level.”

Adding 10 or so pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame, the 296-pound Bullard has maintained his first-step quickness and matured in all phases.

“He's doing better,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. He's much more mature physically. He's more mentally and emotionally ready for the rigors of playing in the NFL trenches against grown men.

“We're hopeful. I like where he's at now. His arrow's pointing up; we'll see how far it goes up.

Making strides:

With 7 sacks in just 12 games as a rookie, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd flashed the pass-rush ability the Bears expected when they made him the ninth overall draft pick in 2016.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio sees an improved player this year, in part because Leonard is healthy, unlike a year ago when injuries nagged him early and often.

“He's able to build upon each day's work,” Fangio said. “He's getting better and better at the little things. Things he thought were kind of hard last year may come easy for him.”


“His angles (to the ball),” Fangio said. “Where his eyes are looking. Being aware of any adjustments he may have to make.

Double-digit sacks are possible for Floyd, but at this point he's still more potential than production.

“I think he'll be a very good player for us and looked upon as a very good player in the league,” Fangio said. “If you're looking for statistical numbers, I can't put a finger on that. But he'll be a good player.”

Too soon to project him to the Pro Bowl?

“Sure it is,” Fangio said. “He's got to put it on the field.”

Back to work:

Following Saturday's Soldier Field practice and Sunday's off day, the Bears are back in Bourbonnais for practice on Monday at 11 and Tuesday at 10:30.

Wednesday is an off day before Thursday's 7 p.m. preseason opener against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field.

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