Over at NBC Sports Chicago, JJ Stankevitz tries his hand at predicting the Chicago Bears’ 53-man roster for opening night against the Green Bay Packers. And as far as I am concerned, the biggest surprise came with who is predicted to be Chicago’s kicker.
Elliott Fry? Nah.
So … Eddy Piñeiro? Nope. Not him either.
Instead, Stankevitz pulls a deep cut and places Cole Hedlund on the Bears’ roster to start the season. So perhaps it’s time for us to get to know Hedlund, the Indianapolis Colts kicker who is not going to leap-frog Adam Vinatieri on the depth chart any time soon.
Hedlund went 3-for-3 in the Colts’ preseason opener, with makes from 25, 42, and 44 yards. Before making his preseason debut, Hedlund was an accomplished college kicker. Hedlund, who wrapped up his college career at North Texas University, was first-team All-Conference USA and a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award (given to college football’s best kicker) after finishing the year connecting on 19 of 22 field goals (86.4%) and 51 of 54 (94.4%) extra points. His 108-point season that ranked him 24th nationally in scoring. That’s pretty good. Before landing at North Texas, Hedlund kicked at Arkansas where he tied a school record for PATs in a single season (58) in 2015, which started a run in which he made 91 consecutive extra-point attempts. That seems good!
Having a quality résumé is a good start, but it would be nice to see Hedlund in action before drawing any grand conclusions. So with that in mind, let’s circle August 24 on our calendars, because that is when the Bears will travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts in their third preseason game. It will mark the second time the Bears will go up against a team that happens to be auditioning a kicker because their No. 1 option is entrenched. That seems incredibly convenient, doesn’t it?
Early in the offseason, Bears GM Ryan Pace insisted no stone would go unturned and that everything was on the table in Chicago’s quest to find a new kicker. More recently, Pace said he would monitor what is happening in other camps and keep it in mind when assessing his own team’s situation.
The Bears left Bourbonnais for Halas Hall without any more clarity to their kicking situation than what they started with when training camp began. And while it is somewhat encouraging that neither of the camp legs has fallen off hard to the point where they are at risk of being booted off the roster, Piñeiro and Fry still have a way to go before one can say they are distancing themselves from the other. No wonder names from other camps continue to pop up.