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Baltimore's Fuller brothers, Kyle and Corey, enter season with important roles for Bears, Lions

What's the outlook for brothers Kyle Fuller and Corey Fuller this year with the Bears and Lions, respectively?

Kyle Fuller established himself as a promising rookie cornerback last season for the Chicago Bears, learning on the job while covering Detroit Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

Meanwhile, his older brother, Corey Fuller, emerged as a valuable contributor for a playoff team as a Lions wide receiver after spending 2013 on the practice squad.

The brothers and Baltimore natives are intent on building on their success as they prepare for training camp and another year playing in the ultra-competitive NFC North division.

"I'm feeling really good about everything that's going on, but I want to get better at everything," Kyle Fuller said. "It was a good first year overall. I can still get better. I know what I need to do. I've set some goals for what I want to do, but I'm keeping that to myself right now."

Drafted 14th overall in the first round and signed to a four-year, $9.605 million contract that includes a $5.635 million signing bonus, Kyle Fuller replaced Charles Tillman as a starter when Tillman got hurt.

Kyle Fuller intercepted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice in the fourth quarter and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, becoming the first Bears player to win that award since safety Mark Carrier in 1990.

Then, he intercepted a pass and forced two fumbles in a win over the New York Jets the next game to become to the first NFL player in the past two decades to have three interceptions and two forced fumbles in the first three games of the season.

Although the former Mount St. Joseph and Virginia Tech standout eventually experienced some growing pains against Johnson and dealt with some injuries, Kyle Fuller finished the season with 64 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 10 passes defended as a rookie.

"Kyle Fuller had a nice year as a rookie," new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio told Chicago reporters this offseason. "We expect him to be a good corner in this league."

And Fuller, who won the prestigious Brian Piccolo award as a rookie, also drew praise from new Bears coach John Fox.

"A young guy like that, a core guy, he was a first-round pick," Fox said. "I think he has the right kind of tools to be a guy that can lean into that leader spot as he goes."

Johnson yielded 11 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns to Johnson in a Thanksgiving game. The next time they squared off, Johnson caught just six of a dozen passes thrown in his direction for 103 yards.

"I learned a lot last year," said Kyle Fuller, a second-team Walter Camp All-American as a senior in 2013 despite being limited to two interceptions and 24 tackles as he missed time due to a sports hernia surgery. "It was a year for me to learn the receivers in the division. I feel like I got better every week. This year, I want to do even more."

That's the goal for Corey Fuller, too. The Woodlawn graduate and former indoor track Nike All-American spent his entire rookie season on the Lions' practice squad after being drafted in the sixth round. Last year, though, he played in every game and caught a career-high 14 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown as the Lions made the playoffs.

"We're just trying to build off what we did last year," said Corey Fuller, whose oldest brother, Vincent Fuller, is a retired for Tennessee Titans safety. "We're a completely different team from last year, but we've got a lot of the same pieces. We're trying to make that move and do even better."

Under former Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, the Lions went 11-5 last year in his first season as their head coach and earned a wild-card playoff spot.

"I say it all the time, it starts with Caldwell and the type of guy he is," Corey Fuller said. "I love coach Caldwell. He's a great person."

A former quarterback at Woodlawn who initially went to Kansas on a track and field scholarship before transferring to Virginia Tech and catching 43 passes for 815 yards and six touchdowns in his final season for the Hokies, Corey Fuller has worked on his game with former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman, a fellow Baltimore native.

Corey Fuller played roughly a third of the Lions' snaps last season as he operated as a backup.

His best moment was catching a game-winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. He caught only two passes over the second half of the regular season and caught another two passes in the playoffs.

"I've been working on shortening up my stride," Fuller said. "I've been used outside, but I'm comfortable going over the middle, too."

This could be a big year for Corey Fuller, whose youngest brother, Kendall, is an All-American junior cornerback at Virginia Tech and is a top NFL draft prospect.

Although the Lions have established starters with Johnson and Golden Tate, Corey Fuller could contribute as a deep threat again.

"I've set a lot of personal goals, but I kind of keep them to myself and keep them quiet," Corey Fuller said. "It's going good. There's always something for me every year to get better at anything and everything."

awilson@baltsun.com

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What to know about the Fuller brothers:

 

 

Kyle Fuller

NFL team: Chicago Bears

Position: Cornerback

Age: 23

Hometown: Baltimore

High school: Mount St. Joseph

College: Virginia Tech

Size: 5-foot-11, 190

Draft: First round, 14th overall 2014 draft

Stats: 64 tackles, four interceptions, three forced fumbles as rookie last year.

Corey Fuller

NFL team: Detroit Lions

Position:  Wide receiver

Age: 25

Hometown: Baltimore

High school: Woodlawn

College: Virginia Tech

Size: 6-foot-2, 200

Draft: Sixth round, 171st overall

Stats: 14 catches, 212 yards, one touchdown last season after spending rookie season on the practice squad.

-- Aaron Wilson

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