There are many theories circulating on why the Bears special teams have been in disarray the past two seasons. One is the loss of special teams guru Dave Toub, who commanded the Bears’ special teams that were perennially in the Top 5 of the NFL.
Another reason is the loss of kick returner Devin Hester, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons this offseason. Of course, that would only explain poor kick returns, not necessarily the poor coverage the Bears have displayed.
The most logical reason given for the downfall in special teams is the switch in team philosophy from a defensive team to an offensive one. Generally, your best special teams players come from the defensive side of the football — linebackers, defensive backs, and a few linemen. This is because they’re used to pursuing ball carriers, shedding blocks, and making tackles.
However, because the Bears have been investing resources on the offensive side of the ball, the depth on defense — where special teamers are usually selected — has been decimated.
The Bears recently got rid of Craig Steltz because they didn’t think he could help them on defense anymore. The problem with that is that he was a good special teams player.
So, as the Bears prepare to enter the fourth and final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns Thursday night, they will be eyeing which players at the bottom of the roster can contribute to special teams as much, if not more than what they could do as a backup on offense or defense.
Some of the players the team will be watching are wide receiver Chris Williams; running backs Shaun Draughn and Senorise Perry; linebackers Khaseem Greene, Jerry Franklin, and Christian Jones; and defensive backs C.J. Wilson, Demontre Hurst, M.D. Jennings, Marcus Trice and Danny McCray.
If these players — and others — expect to make the final cutdown, they’ll have to prove they can help improve a woeful Bears special teams.