The 2019 Chicago Bears’ training camp is under way 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.
Today: Special teams
The Kicking-Game Specialists: Punter Pat O’Donnell (62 punts, 45.0 average, 39.7 net average, 28 inside-the-20, long of 65), long snapper Patrick Scales, long snapper John Wirtel
Punt Returns: Tarik Cohen (33 returns, 411 yards, 12.5 average, 44 long)
Kick Returns: Cordarrelle Patterson (23 returns, 663 yards, 28.8 average, 95 long, 1 TD), Taquan Mizzell Sr. (7 returns, 106 yards, 22 long, 15.1 average)
Other Possible Return Candidates: Anthony Miller, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
We Really Like: The addition of Cordarrelle Patterson is one that made all the sense in the world. Chicago has struggled in the kick return game for quite some time, with last year’s issues being the most painful. An improved return game will give the Bears better field position, which could further aid Mitch Trubisky’s development. If Trubisky is better on a shorter field, that could mean more scoring drives for the offense. And if the offense is putting points on the board more often, then the pressure will ease off the defense. In short, being better in one phase (and specifically, with someone who has Patterson’s speed and playmaking experience) could have a positive impact on the other phases of the game.
We Might Be Worried About: There has been so much talk about Cody Parkey’s season-ending double-doink, sometimes Pat O’Donnell’s final punt in the playoff loss to the Eagles gets lost in the shuffle. O’Donnell’s short kick set Philadelphia up with premier field position on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown drive. And while I would not go as far to say that a better punt would have changed the end result, I have complete confidence in saying that giving the Eagles a longer road to march on that final drive could have been something that helped the Bears cause. O’Donnell is the longest-serving Bears special teams member and signed a multi-year deal in the offseason. Here’s hoping the Bears won’t have to use him often, because that will mean Chicago’s offense is clicking.
2019 Forecast: Putting together a special teams forecast in early August is fool’s gold. At this time last year, the Bears were believed to be in a better spot than they were in the previous year. As we all know by now, Chicago’s special teams was among the worst in the league last year (and it wasn’t just because of Cody Parkey’s missed kicks). Second-year Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor has his work cut out for him.