Kim Klement/USA Today

Improved health, turnovers key for Vic Fangio's defense

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio lays out some keys to success for the team after a disappointing 2016 season.

The Chicago Bears didn't draft a player on the defensive side of the ball until the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

But that didn't bother defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

"Not really, I mean there isn't a position coach in the league that wouldn't like to have a first or second-round pick to add to their position," Fangio said today. "Likewise any coordinator wouldn't like to have a first- or second-round pick to add to the squad, but that's just the way it goes. There's no big deal there."

On the second day of rookie minicamp, Fangio laid out some keys to success for the Bears as they begin early preparation for the 2017 season.

For Fangio, it starts with getting healthy.

The Bears took OLB Leonard Floyd ninth overall in the 2016 draft and the former Georgia standout impressed while he was on the field. He finished the season with seven sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown in 12 games during his rookie season.

Yet Floyd missed four games due to a concussion and was dinged up throughout the year, but Fangio hopes that having a year under his belt will help him in 2017.

“He’s got a foundation of a year behind him, and he was only available about half the time last year," Fangio said. "He had a bunch of those little injuries that interrupted his progress throughout the season. Hopefully with the year under his belt, getting in better shape, better condition, and take off. If he stays healthy, I feel good about him.”

Floyd was part of a Bears defense that was bitten by the injury bug last season, particularly at linebacker.

Veteran Pernell McPhee started the season on the PUP list, missing the first six games of the season before returning in Week 7 against Green Bay. Still, it took McPhee weeks to get back to game speed and make an impact. He suffered a shoulder injury toward the end of the year, which added on to his struggles.

This season, Fagnio hopes McPhee can come in and be the big-money player they signed him to be in 2015. 

"To get him back to healthy [is key]," said Fangio. "You know he ended the season with a shoulder, see how well he's moving, physically moving around and hopefully get him back to where he was for like the first six games in that '15 season."

While McPhee began last year on the PUP list, a fellow linebacker could face the same fate going into 2017. 

Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee during a Week 12 loss to the Tennessee Titans. It sounds as if the linebacker won't be ready for the start of training camp in late July and could begin the year on the PUP list.

"I think that's in question whether he'll be ready at that point," Fangio said.

Injuries weren't the only factor that contributed to a disappointing 3-13 season in 2016. The Bears' defense forced just 11 turnovers in 2016, which tied for last in the NFL with the New York Jets. 

The eight interceptions forced was also tied for last in the NFL, something Fangio is hoping to change going forward.

“Well, we hope we’re going to improve there," Fangio said. "That takes 11 guys doing it, but we’ll see. That’s obviously going to be an emphasis for us.”

Fangio pointed at depth as a way to combat injury problems and the Bears have addressed the depth of the secondary.

"Well, it's always critical to build depth, and when you're losing guys, too, there's a lot of guys that aren't here that were here, so is that new guys replacing them on the top or on the bottom," Fangio said. "So you're always working to improve your depth."

Chicago signed free agent defensive backs Marcus Cooper, Prince Amukamara, Quintin Demps and B.W. Webb in the offseason, as well as drafting Eddie Jackson. 

Defensive back Kyle Fuller is entering his fourth season after being selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The 25-year-old missed the entire 2016 season with a knee injury. He showed promise during his rookie season and had an encouraging end to his 2015 campaign but Fuller's job might be in jeopardy, as there is a lot of competition in the secondary.

"Well, I hope to see Kyle healthy and out there running around," Fangio said. "Moving like he's 100 percent, and we'll go from there."

As for what Fangio thinks about having better talent in the secondary and improving in 2017, he simply replied: “We’ll see.”


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