Getting to Know the 2018 Chicago Bears: Special Teams

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Getting to Know the 2018 Chicago Bears: Special Teams

Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public has come and gone. And with training camp underway and the team’s August 2 debut at the Hall of Fame Game around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.

Previous: Quarterbacks, Running backs, Wide receivers, Tight ends, Offensive tackles, Guards/centers, Defensive line, Inside linebackers, Outside linebackers, Cornerbacks, Safeties.

Today: Special teams

Kickers: PK Cody Parkey (21-23 (91.3%) field goals, 26-29 (89.7%) PATs), P Pat O’Donnell (87 punts, 4,087 yards, 47.0 yards per punt; 69-yard long), P Ryan Winslow (57 punts, 2,536 yards, 44.5 average)

Return specialists: Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham, Eddie Jackson, Bryce Callahan, Taquan Mizzell, Anthony Miller

Long snapper: Patrick Scales

Training Camp Battle Alert: Pat O’Donnell and Ryan Winslow represent one of the increasingly rare summer showdown for a starting role. O’Donnell is entering his fifth year in the league and is coming off a season in which he set career bests in punts (87), yards (4,087), and average (47.0). Winslow is an undrafted free agent who was named a first-team All-ACC member by league coaches, media, and the Associated Press.

I suppose a tie-breaker could come down to putting the special in special teams, as both O’Donnell and Winslow threw touchdown passes last season. We couldn’t get enough of O’Donnell’s toss last year, but this trick play is on another level:

We Really Like: Feeling like the Bears have a reliable kicker. Things haven’t been the same in the kicking game since the team gave Robbie Gould the boot. However, better times are on the horizon after signing Cody Parkey as a free agent. Parkey was a Pro Bowl kicker as a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014 and nailed 91.3 percent of his kicks for the Miami Dolphins last season. Since the start of 2016, Parkey has made 85.4 percent of his kicks. If that number strikes a chord, it might be because Gould was successful on 85.4 percent of his attempts during his 11 years in Chicago.

We Might Be Worried About: While highlight shows might suggest something else, special teams isn’t a one-man show. It will take a team effort for this unit to get back to where it was under Dave Toub. It was troublesome to see the group collectively take a step back when Sherrick McManus was injured last year. If the Bears aren’t better in this facet of the game, the offense and defense will both suffer.

2018 Forecast: The arrow pointing up for the Bears’ special teams entering this season, especially with Chris Tabor (a Toub disciple and former Bears assistant) taking over as coordinator and stability at kicker with Parkey in the fold. If Tarik Cohen can pick up where he left off last season, special teams will turn from a weakness into a strength. And not a moment too soon.

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Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.