The Chicago Bears’ first training camp practice open to the public arrives on July 27, and we’ll be there! But with training camp rapidly approaching and the team’s August 8 debut at home against the Panthers around the corner, let’s take an early look at who’s on the team right now.
The In-Camp Competition: Eddy Piñeiro vs. Elliott Fry
The Leg With Upside: In one corner, the Bears have Piñeiro, whom they acquired from the Raiders for a conditional late-round pick. We documented how Piñeiro the stronger leg of the camp competitors, but Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush reports the Florida product’s leg is something different than what has been in camp in recent years. In a late-June mailbag, Arkush said Piñeiro’s leg “looks and sounds like it could be special.” Have you ever heard a squarely kicked ball? It has a certain, distinct “oomph!” Apparently, Piñeiro has that … and it’s something a Bears kicker hasn’t possessed in quite some time.
The Leg With “Professional” Experience: And in the other corner, the Bears have Fry, a kicker who established himself as someone worth inviting to camp for a competition by starring in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football. The Bears signed Fry to a three-year in April, though that won’t be something for consideration until he actually kicks his way onto the team. Fry landed in Chicago after going 14-for-14 in field goals while playing for the Steve Spurrier-coached Orlando Apollos. Prior to that, Fry didn’t get much attention from NFL teams, which is something of a surprise because Fry was a solid college kicker. Fry walked onto the South Carolina Gamecocks (where he played for Spurrier) without a scholarship, then walked away as the school’s all-time leading scorer. During his time on campus, Fry earned All-SEC honors and was a semi-finalist for the Lou Groza Award (given to college football’s best kicker) as a senior in 2014. The combination of prospect pedigree and professional experience (hey, it counts!) makes Fry a worthy combatant.
Might Be Are Worried About: There is no shortage of concerns when it comes to the Bears’ kicking game, but here is a short-list of my current worries:
- What if neither kicker does enough to make the team?
- What happens if the guy who earns it flounders early?
- What if the guy who is let go turns out to be good elsewhere?
- Is the Bears’ best kicking option a free agent who is being overlooked because the team is having a camp competition?
- Should the Bears trade for an established kicker? Or possibly his intriguing backup?
- Aren’t the Bears better off going for two?
- Are you suuuuure that Robbie Gould is committed to the 49ers? (Sidebar: Yes.)
2019 Forecast: Being optimistic isn’t just a choice, it’s my default nowadays. Life is too short to be dwelling on negatives. Unfortunately, being bullish about the Bears’ kicking game is truly challenging. But if I’m going to be the guy who tweets #PositiveVibesOnly, I need to put my money where my mouth is. Here is your silver lining: ESPN’s Mike Clay has projections that should make you feel better. Not only does Clay forecast Piñeiro winning the summertime kicking competition, the predicted numbers for the new Bears kicker should dwarf what Cody Parkey posted last year. The projections for Piñeiro: 25-for-30 on field goals (83.3%), 35-for-38 on extra-points (92.1%).
If the Bears offense can leave fewer points on the field, because their kicking game improves, then we’ll all be happier for it.