When the Matt Nagy hired Chris Tabor to be the Chicago Bears’ Special Teams Coach, there was hope that a Dave Toub understudy would steer the ship in the right direction. The Bears’ special teams units have slumped since Toub left town and Tabor was supposed to be the guy to lead the group back to respectability.
Then the games were played and those of us who had higher expectations entering the year were left disappointed. To be clear, it wasn’t all on Cody Parkey and the 10 kicks he missed during the regular season. Chicago graded out as one of the worst special teams squads in football. Only six teams earned lower rankings than the Bears last year. So maybe that is why the team has set itself up for sweeping change throughout the unit.
In addition to punter Patrick O’Donnell being an unrestricted free agent for the second consecutive offseason and Cody Parkey officially being shown the door, the Bears did not tender contracts to restricted free agents Patrick Scales and DeAndre Houston-Carson. Scales was the team’s long snapper, while Houston-Carson was a core special teams member and reserve safety. Both players could re-sign with the Bears at any point in the offseason, but that the team is allowing them to test the market this way keeps the door open to the front office moving on if it finds the right mix of players that provide upgrades at those positions.
The strength of the Bears’ special teams currently lies in its return specialists with Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson (yep, he just got here!) providing real threats to take it to the house at a moment’s notice. Sherrick McManis’ presence should be viewed as a positive, as well. Other than that, there is a ton to be desired from this group moving forward.
With that in mind, let’s keep an eye out on how the Bears operate in the upcoming wave of free agency. Now that the big-ticket items have been signed, this is where the best teams – *looks admiringly at the New England Patriots* – make minor moves that lead to major gains in the year to come.