When the Chicago Bears take the field against the New York Giants on Sunday, they’ll do so without a pair of special steams standouts:
RB Benny Cunningham and DB Sherrick McManis did not travel with the team to New York and have been downgraded to out for Sunday’s game at the Giants.
— Chicago Bears (@BearsPR) December 1, 2018
Kick returner/running back Benny Cunningham and long-time special teams ace Sherrick McManis did not hop on Saturday’s team flight out east and will not play in the Bears’ Week 13 matchup against the Giants. Both players battled through injuries this week and neither practiced, which hinted at the possibility that both would be out of action this week.
Cunningham suffered an ankle injury against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, which limited him from being a factor on special teams and in the return game. Prior to the Bears’ Week 12 game, Cunningham had appeared on nearly 63 percent of special teams snaps. But because of the ankle injury, he was limited to just 25 percent of the special teams plays. With Cunningham sidelined, the Bears will continue to put Taquan Mizzell Sr. out as the team’s top return option. Mizzell is averaging just 15 yards per return, but scored a receiving touchdown as a running back out of the backfield last week, which might buy him some time to get it going in the return game.
McManis was held out of practice while nursing a hamstring injury, an injury that concerns me on multiple levels. On the surface, hamstring injuries can be tricky and often don’t come with a set target return date. Beyond that, McManis had a hamstring issue last year that kept him out of action for a few weeks. And if you’ll recall, Chicago’s special teams coverage units struggled last season when McManis had an extended injury-related absence. With that in mind, the Bears need to come up with a solid Plan B to build a bridge until McManis is ready to get back on the field.
No Bears player has played more special teams snaps than McManis’ 228, so replacing him figures to be a bit more difficult than finding someone to fill Cunningham’s shoes. But because Chicago’s depth has been a strength all season, it’s reasonable to have faith this team can cook up an answer for game day.