How Special are the Bears Special Teams?

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Eddie Jackson /

A closer look at the 2017 Chicago Bears’ Special Teams units and how fans should expect them to perform this upcoming season.

The Chicago Bears, during the Lovie Smith era, fielded some very special,  special teams units.  Since the Smith/Angelo/Hester era, mediocrity has become the norm.  So how special can our beloved Bears be?

During the 2016 season, according to Football Outsiders, the Bears ranked 18th in the league.  In totality, the ranking is very reflective of an average team that managed to achieve less-than-average results.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears /

Chicago Bears

2017 ushers in a new season and with all new seasons hope springs eternal.  The focus’ of any new season are acquisitions, player turnover and coaching changes.  While fans often associate Devin Hester with the team’s success, focus and coaching may be a stronger indicator of success…or lack thereof.

During the 2016, Dave Toub led the Kansas City Chiefs to the #2 overall ranking.  2014 and 2015 KC ranked 3rd and 9th respectively.  The Bears, on the other hand, have special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers at the helm.  Rodgers was hired in January of 2015 and returns for another season.  Continuity can be a good thing; that is if you like where you are.

The 2017 season sports an intriguing return option in Alabama S Eddie Jackson.  Jackson is no stranger to special teams touchdowns, scoring two in his senior season.  6′ 0″ and 201 pounds, Jackson has the athleticism and speed to compete at the NFL level.  His prowess on special teams all but guarantees opportunities for playing time on Sundays.

Deonte Thompson and Josh Bellamy are effective special teams players, however, both have to make the team first.  That making the team is in question, does not bode well.  Thompson had a respectable 23-yard average last season, though nobody will mistake him for Devin Hester. Bellamy’s performance as a WR was maddeningly inconsistent.

Finally, the kicking game.  Field position and field goals will win and lose games every season.  The vast majority of NFL teams are average.  They will finish between 7-9 and 9-7.  The kicking team will often determine who makes it to 10-6 and make the play offs and who will wind up 6-10 and risk a major overhaul during the off-season.

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Conner Barth had a fairly average, if not lack-luster season last year.  He finished the season 18 of 23 on field goal attempts and missed one extra point.  The average performance combined with his age, 31 years old, certainly opened the door for competition.

Enter the competition, rookie Andy Phillips from Utah.  Phillips racked up some impressive stats and proved to be a clutch player for the Utes.  Rookie kickers, especially the  variety not drafted, often have a tough time sticking with their first team.  My prediction is that Phillips beats out Barth and makes the team.

My prediction for the 2017 season is a mild improvement as the Bears, as a whole team, improve. The Bears will drive points scored, improved turnover ratio and positive trends in field position.  I do not, however, expect a quantum leap in rankings.  if you are in fantasy football though, I would not be afraid to select the Bears Defense/Special Teams as your second choice.