Chicago Bears Training Camp Preview: Specialists

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Nov 4, 2013; Green Bay, WI, USA; Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould (9) enjoys a moment during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Roster Projections

Besides a lot of the guys we’ve already touched on, today we focus on some of the core specialists.

Kicker – Robbie Gould

Things are going to be quite different for Gould, who will be the only holdover from last season’s specialists. He’ll have a new “battery” in front of him with a new long snapper and a new holder.  Will that affect “Solid Gould” and his accuracy?  Nah, he’s solid.

Punter – Pat O’Donnell

When you spend a draft pick on a punter, it’s a pretty good bet you plan to include him on your 53-man roster.  Even though Tress Way has reportedly been punting the heck out of the ball in OTA’s, I don’t see any way that he beats out a draft pick.

Long Snapper

I miss Patrick Mannelly already.  I will be honest, I have no idea whether Chad Rempel or Brandon Harston win the long snapper job.  Rempel has a good reputation from his work in Canada while Harston has learned at the hand of Mannelly.  As long as neither of them pulls a Desmond Clark, former Bears tight end who was pressed into long snapping duties in a preseason game with disastrous results, I think we’ll be OK.

Punt Returner – Chris Williams

Another former CFL’er will be expected to make a push for a roster spot, wide receiver Chris Williams.  Don’t mistake this Chris Williams for another former draft bust.  This little guy will hope to make fans forget about the best return man the league has ever known, Devin Hester.  Williams set a bunch of CFL records, but this is the big leagues.

Kick Returner – Michael Ford

Michael Ford opened some eyes during the preseason last year with a couple of nice kickoff returns, including a touchdown.  He would be my frontrunner to bring out kicks come opening day provided he can handle his pass-blocking duties as a running back.  Armanti Edwards and Michael Spurlock will challenge Ford for kick return duties.

Other specialists vying for spots will be Craig Steltz, Eric Weems, Sherrick McManis and Jordan Senn.  They’ll have to hold off young up and comers at their positions and continue their high level of special teams.  Look out for undrafted free agents like Christian Jones and Jordan Lynch to try to crack the roster with their work on special teams.

Final Word

There’s a lot of turnover among the Bears core specialists.  Longtime stalwarts like Patrick Mannelly and Devin Hester are gone and the search for the next generation of players will take place during camp and the preseason games.  If that’s not reason to watch the 4th quarter of the first preseason game, I don’t know what is.