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Chicago Bears CB Amukamara has lofty goals

August 3, 2018

BOURBONNAIS -- For a guy like Prince Amukamara, with seven career interceptions in seven seasons, and none in the past two years, talk of getting 10 picks in 2018 seems pretty bold.

But the Bears’ cornerback, flush with the confidence and security that comes with a three-year, $27-million contract that includes $18 million in guaranteed loot, is setting his sights high.

Keep in mind, Amukamara’s not predicting 10 interceptions, but when he was asked in the offseason about goals, double digits popped into his mind.

“One of my goals has always been to have a 10-pick season, just because it hasn’t been done in a while,” the 29-year-old former first-round pick (19th overall) of the Giants said. “I know the work I’ve put in at practice. I know it’s there; it’s all about just translating it into the games, so my intentions are to do that.”

No one in the NFL has had 10 interceptions in a season since Antonio Cromartie in 2007, and Amukamara’s personal best is three in 2014. That was his fourth of five seasons with the Giants, after which he played on one-year deals with the Jaguars in 2016 and the Bears in 2017.

Playing in coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense for a second season not only gives Amukamara confidence in what he can accomplish individually but what the group can achieve.

“Being comfortable in the scheme and playing with the same guys really has its advantages,” said Amukamara, who has started 69 NFL games but is hoping to play in all 16 games for the first time since 2013. “I just want to help this team, especially this defense, continue to improve. I feel like last year we took the right step, and we want to keep climbing.”

If there was a shortcoming on last year’s No. 10 defense (in yards allowed) it was the dearth of interceptions. For the third straight season, the Bears picked off a franchise-low eight passes, which brings us back to Amukamara’s goal.

If the first two weeks of training camp are any indication, the 6-foot, 204-pound former Nebraska Cornhusker is at least trending in the right direction. He has already intercepted four passes and repeatedly swatted away others, jumping routes with confidence – the kind of confidence that comes with a long-term deal. Amukamara may have lacked that kind of self-assurance the past two years when he was playing on one-year, make-good deals.

“You want to make plays, but you don’t want to jump something and then put bad stuff on film,” he said. “So it was always like a Catch-22. Now, I feel like I do have a sense of security and freedom, and I think with all that, I’ll be able to flourish.”

A lot of the offseason work that Amukamara has done has been specifically with the idea of getting more interceptions. He’s had some help from defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who was quick to challenge him on his 10-interception quote.

“Coach Ed said, ‘Hey, you wrote a check, and we have to cash it,’ ” a chuckling Amukamara said. “I said, ‘Coach, I didn’t write it, I just said this is something that I would love to happen.’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s go.’ So he threw me on the Jugs (football-throwing machine).

“What’s also been helping me a lot is just knowing the defense and just watching a lot more game film. I get that a lot from (fellow CB) Kyle (Fuller). Kyle is like a coach on the field, and he always knows the situations and what to expect. So that helps a lot.”

Probably not enough help for Amukamara to get 10 interceptions, but you can’t blame a guy for setting lofty goals.

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