Bear Fans have enjoyed some truly outstanding Special Teams play over the past decade. Well, out with the old and in with the new! Gone is Special Teams mastermind, Dave Toub. Enter, newly acquired and unproven-in-Soldier-Field, Joe DeCamillis. How could anything possibly go wrong?
Let me be the first to answer that…what goes up, must come down. Eventually, statistical fluctuation dictates that over the long run things tend to even out. Unfortunately for us Bear fans, it seems like the rise of offense in Chicago might be longer than the average lifespan of the typical Bear fan. Especially with all those bratwursts washed down with beer on football Sunday!
Back on task…simply put, the Bears offense has been dredging the bottom of Lake Michagan for so long, it is easy for me to see the additions of coaches, lineman and draft picks elevating the offense from horrible to at least mediocre…if not maybe better than average! How can it not get better? Impossible…simple physics!
Special Teams, at the top of the league, is vulnerable to a distinct turn for the worse….pessimists might even predict a collasal collapse. A potential storm is brewing over the Windy City I believe….at least from the perspective of Special Teams play.
Ingredients for the storm…The first condition has been met. New leadership at the coaching and GM level. This guarantees us of new, but not necessarily better, schemes. It will be difficult to improve on the scheme we have seen. More potentially profound, at least in the long term, the GM changed and so has the valuing of resources such as starters playing time on special teams, salary cap space and draft picks used to field an elite unit.
There are three players at risk of not being on the roster on opening day…. Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh and Devin Hester. Could that happen? It can…will it happen??? Probably not, but I would not wager a significant amount of money that it won’t.
Adam Podlesh started the season slowly but finished strong. The Bears signed Oklahoma’s Tress Way. Teams always bring in guys to punt and act as “camp legs”. The player gets to be seen by coaches, gain experience and ultimately compete. Most of the time, with an entrenched punter, the camp leg moves on. This positional contest bears watching because if Podlesh struggles or Way distinguishes himself, the Bears might chose a less expensive option.
Dare I say Robbie Gould is far from safe? A team typically does not sign a back up to a 3 year contract but that is exactly what Emery did when they met with Eastern Illinois product, Austin Signor. Gould has truly been gold and Bears will not be better if he is not on the roster. When the Bears signed Gould, he was paid like the best kicker in the league at that time. Again, through deed at that time, the Bears showed the value they placed on Special Teams. Signor is a less expensive option, but not a better option. Our GM will show us his valuing of the Kicker position by opening day, one way or the other.
If there is a place for a special teams returner in the Hall of Fame, surely Devin Hester’s #23 will be in Canton. Hester’s contract is worth $2.94 million in terms of cap hit. If he is cut, the Bears have $1.083 million in dead money for 2013. He is in the last year of his contract and will be an unrestricted free agent following this season. On the bright side, there has been no stand out wide receiver stepping up behind Marshall, Jeffery or Bennett. On the dark side, I would be surprised if both Weems and Hester were on the roster opening day. The possibility of Hester being a cap/roster casualty is very real. The new kick-off rules also have diminished his potential to impact the outcome of a game as well.
Emery has made several moves to bring in talent at the WR position and Hester will not be counted as one of the WR’s…at least to begin with. If Hester can not, or does not, play wide receiver, I am not sure there is room on the roster for him. It definitely gets dicey if one or two of the young, unproven players steps up their game. If the Bears need to free up $3million in cap space, they have to look no further than #23. Unfortunately, Hester is in a precarious position and not in control of his own fate.
As scary as the above scenarios are to me, I do believe it is probable that one or more of them will play out in dramatic fashion this summer in Bourbonnais.
So Bear fans…does Joe DeCamillis hold the line in 2013 or do we see a regression of elite special teams play in Chi-town?