Chicago Bears Roster Review: Pat O’Donnell
Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace has quite a rebuilding project on his hands. In the next phase of our Chicago Bears Roster Review, we look at the players who are currently on the Bears roster. We’ll look back at their 2014 season and look ahead to how they might fit into the team’s plans in 2015.
Pat O’Donnell – P, Age 24
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I was surprised to see that O’Donnell only had the 18th highest number of punts in the league last year, a category that no one wants to lead the league in. In those 71 punts, he averaged 43.8 yards – good for 28th in the league; with a net average of 37.7 – 27th in the league. It should be noted that Tress Way, who was cut in the preseason, led the NFL in punting average. Of the 71 punts, 20 of them ended up inside the 20 yard line – 28th in the league. This is a statistic that he will need to improve on if he wants to have a long career in this league.
After spending a 6th round pick on O’Donnell last year, he amazed people in camp with his booming deep and high punts. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t matter when the real season starts. While O’Donnell did have some strong performances throughout the season, he finished with a lower net punting average than Adam Podlesh (the player he replaced) had the previous season.
With that said, the punt unit as a whole had a rough year allowing 10.2 yards/return (bottom half of the league), a touchdown, blocked punts and who can forget a failed fake punt attempt where they only had 10 players on the field. Not to make excuses but the more pressure you get on you as a punter, I have to imagine that the more difficult it is to get off a quality punt and the protection was suspect last year, to say the least. When you have a punter that is 6’5”, he needs a little bit more time than smaller punters to wind up.
Look for the Bears to bring in some competition to push O’Donnell in camp and preseason, as they should. The numbers were not acceptable last year and that goes for all special teams units as a whole. I’ve said this many times in my life – a good special teams coordinator is very underrated. Many of these players have not played a lot of special teams in their lives as they have been stars in HS and college, starters their whole career, etc. This can be a difficult transition for many that needs good leadership. The Bears clearly did not have that last year in Joe Decamillis.
How did you feel about O’Donnell’s performance last year? How short of a leash should he get in 2015? Do you even care about a punter?
I want to hear from you!