You can never have too many cornerbacks.
Not just a Bruceism, this Dick Jauron staple statement may have been the wisest trope uttered during his tenure of 7-9 teams. It finds itself relevant now after a report by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, who stated that the Buffalo Bills were among the team who “have actively monitored the cornerback market in recent months.” He mentioned Buffalo along with the Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, Houston Texans and New York Giants as teams that had their eye on the market. Given the Bills’ stellar start to the season on the defensive side of the ball, one might be immediately inclined to say that no further reinforcements on that side of the ball are necessary.
But then Fowler mentioned names: Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan. Both are currently Denver Broncos, and with three straight losses after a 3-0 start, the Broncos could be sellers at the trade deadline in 2021.
When examining whether to target Callahan or Fuller, the distinction must be made on what type of corner you’re trying to acquire. In Callahan, you’re getting a player who has primarily played in the slot, and with the newly extended Taron Johnson backed up by a player who has flashed in limited snaps in Cam Lewis, the Bills might not feel inclined to add a slot corner. When the Bills need to match up against tight ends, they can use Matt Milano or, in his absence, Siran Neal gave great effort against Travis Kelce. Callahan would appear to be the less likely option, even though he’s proven to be a good slot corner in the NFL, allowing only a passer rating into his coverage of 68.6 over six seasons in the league.
With Kyler Fuller, the conversation gets more interesting. The multi-year Pro Bowler has been part of a defense that helped Denver get off to the aforementioned 3-0 start, but hasn’t lived up to his Chicago Bears reputation in his first season in Denver. It likely isn’t due to significant system adjustments due to the presence of former Bears DC Vic Fangio as head coach in Denver. (Fuller had a seven-interception season in Fangio’s defense in Chicago in 2018 before Fangio left to coach Denver in 2019.) The fact that Fuller isn’t flourishing in a system he knows so well may give teams pause when considering whether or not to expend assets on him, but Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier have consistently shown the ability to get reasonable or better production from cornerbacks in their system. Although Fangio and McDermott’s system are similar in the fact that they often use two-high safety looks, the Broncos run much more cover 2 relative to league average and much less cover 3 and quarters relative to league averages. The Bills used a lot of cover 2 against Patrick Mahomes, but has historically been more in the cover 3 and quarters family of coverages. The Bills’ system has been kind in the past to cornerbacks with less than ideal traits, which means a player with Fuller’s athleticism (7.9 Relative Athletic Score) won’t find himself physically unable to perform the tasks asked of him.
Fuller has proven ball production and hasn’t lost a step athletically. Maybe he just needs a change of scenery to something a little different without a jarring change.
If the Bills are going to make a move to reinforce a position that can quickly become depleted after a pulled hammy or two, Fuller feels like an option worth exploring.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings Podcast Network!