Bears training camp snapshot: Specialists

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by The Benjamin, Jul 17, 2014.

  1. The Benjamin

    The Benjamin George Halas Staff Member

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    Bears are set kicking with Robbie Gould, but need successor to returner Devin Hester and hope 6th-round punter Pat O'Donnell will be upgrade
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    Chicago Bears' Brandon Hartson, Robbie Gould (9), Patrick O'Donnell (16), Tress Way (1) and Chad Rempel (46) during minicamp at Halas Hall. (Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune / June 18, 2014)
    By Rich Campbell, Tribune reporter
    8:05 p.m. CDT, July 17, 2014

    The Bears are set kicking with Robbie Gould but need a successor to record-setting returner Devin Hester and hope sixth-round punter Pat O'Donnell will be an upgrade over Adam Podlesh.

    Biggest offseason developments: The Bears did not offer a new contract to star return specialist Devin Hester, who signed with the Falcons. Long snapper Patrick Mannelly retired as the longest-tenured player in club history. The club drafted Pat O'Donnell in the sixth round out of Miami after releasing the veteran Podlesh.

    What to like: The Bears recognized they needed a new punter after ranking last in the NFL last season with a 40.6-yard gross average. Podlesh's inconsistency hurt an injury-riddled defense that needed all the field position help it could get. The Bears saved $1.025 million in salary cap space when they released him.
    O'Donnell, who also played tight end and linebacker in high school, did more 225-pound bench press repetitions at the scouting combine than No. 1-overall pick Jadeveon Clowney did, 23-21. But that's not why the Bears drafted a punter for the first time since taking Todd Sauerbrun in the second round in 1995.
    "This is a strapping athlete with a big leg who has not only kicked for yardage, but he has kicked for average, and he has kicked directionally, which is very important in the pro game," general manager Phil Emery said.
    Emery noted that O'Donnell produced in college at Cincinnati and Miami. He transferred to play his final season of eligibility with the Hurricanes as part of an effort to be closer to his father, whose cancer is now in remission.

    O'Donnell set Miami's single season record by averaging 47.1 yards per punt, which ranked third in the nation. He averaged 41.8 in 2012, his final season at Cincinnati.
    The Bears ensured stability at kicker when they signed Robbie Gould to a four-year contract extension two days before the 2013 season finale. The deal is worth up to $15 million, including $9 million guaranteed.
    The extension followed a campaign that might be remembered most for a field goal Gould missed — the 47-yarder in a December overtime loss to the Vikings that would have given the Bears a victory they ultimately needed to win the division.

    Overall, though, he still compares favorably to the most accurate kickers in the league. He made 23 of 25 field-goal attempts from closer than 50 yards.

    Preseason questions: Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis will be extremely busy managing the punter, long snapper and kickoff/punt returner battles during the four exhibitions. Keep in mind that game production usually decides these competitions more than practice performance.

    Let's start with punter, where DeCamillis has not counted out Tress Way. The Bears waived him last August but, as Emery points out, the NFL is full of effective kickers and punters teams had cut previously. In some cases it takes time for a player to find the right opportunity or to gain the experience needed to handle pressure.

    Way has a bit of an experience edge over O'Donnell, although O'Donnell's draft status understandably would earn him the benefit of the doubt if the decision were close.

    "The pressure's a little different, the athletes are a little bit different, so it becomes more of a mental game in the carry-over for the pro level than it is from the college level," Emery said.

    O'Donnell said his season at Miami was critical in developing his directional kicking, which he will have to demonstrate in exhibitions.

    No long snapper is more reliable than Mannelly was, and his absence could cause consternation.
    Brandon Hartson, 24, was with the Bears for 19 days last August. Chad Rempel, 32, played for Bears coach Marc Trestman in the CFL. Rempel is a 10-year CFL veteran, an important advantage considering how special teams coaches often equate experience to reliability.

    Replacing Hester with someone who's not exclusively a return specialist could help free a roster spot. Position versatility figures to be one of several factors, but not necessarily the most important, in the final decision.

    Receivers Chris Williams, Eric Weems, Micheal Spurlock, Armanti Edwards and running back Michael Ford are expected to compete for return duties. Williams is the most intriguing candidate because of his elite speed and production in the CFL. DeCamillis also likes his vision. He said he's not looking for any specific trait in a return man; only productivity. Williams also could be an asset on offense with his speed and ability to change direction.

    rcampbell@tribune.com

    Twitter @Rich_Campbell

    Currently on roster: 5

    Projected on final roster: 3

    Roster lock: K Robbie Gould

    Good bet: P Pat O'Donnell

    On the bubble: P Tress Way, LS Chad Rempel, LS Brandon Hartson

    Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC
  2. jackiejokeman

    jackiejokeman Pro-Bowler

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    This is beyond weird ... theres no way we can know what ST's are going to be until after training camp.

    Im not talking about the specialists, but the troops on the field for kickoff and punt returns.

    Mannelly just retired ... who led DAA BEARSSE in tackles on Special Teams ?

    Mannelly ended his career with 81 special teams tackles, the third most by a Bear since 1995, and the longest tenured player in team history.

    Uhhh .. we drafted Groy ... rumored to be a Long Snapper.

    I'd love to see all of this shit go down in Training Camp.

    But until then ... arent we all just grasping at straws?

    Wheres my 2014 CHICAGO BEARS ? I dunno ... havent seen em.
  3. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Who led the Bears in STeam tackles in 2013? I'm thinking Costanzo with Steltz (13?) and McManis (10) right behind. Weems had 9. Mannelly wasn't the leader.

    Ryan Groy was an UDFA but he's too big to be an NFL LS. He could snap for an XP or FG but he doesn't have the speed for coverage on punts. LS are usually more the size of LB or TEs. Hartson and Rempel are both in the 23o-240lb range. At 6'5 265lbs Mannelly was bigger than usual for a LS.

    It would be a complete shock if O'Donnell isn't the punter this year and I think our two former CFL guys will get LS (Rempel) and PR/KR (Williams) spots along with Michael Ford as another possibility as a KR. I think Weems is out this year.

    The coverage teams are gonna be made up of the backups at RB,CB,S,LB,TE,DE and some OL for FGs and XPs.

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