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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Your 2014 Bears Training Camp/Roster Breakdown: Special Teams and Coaches

So now we reach the end. The special teams. The other third. Those guys that you usually ignore until they fuck up, at which point you're incensed because even though you get winded carrying groceries up the stairs you wonder aloud how hard it can be to cover a goddamn kick returner running a 4.3 forty. This year the Bears have actually had some unusual turnover on what has typically been a solid unit for them, with Devin Hester moving on, Adam Podlesh getting his walking papers, and, sigh, Patrick Mannelly retiring.

I haven't really addressed it yet so I'm just going to take a sidebar here to say goodbye to Mannelly. He was awesome, he was always great to fans on Twitter and in any other interaction (from what I've heard), he had great hair, and, most importantly, he was ruthlessly efficient at his job. The Bears may have more bad snaps this season than they've had since I was nine years old, and that would be true even if they had all of three of them all year. Pat never got it wrong. It was a joke of mine during the Jauron Era that the best player on the Bears was the long snapper, and while that's nothing for an organization to hang their hat on, at least in Pat's case it meant that he was one of the best in the league at what he did. I will miss him.

#9 Robbie Gould
Yeah, there's just one. It's Robbie. He's great. If you don't think so, regardless of whether he missed that kick in Minnesota or not, you can rot. Robbie was actually accurate on a career high 89.7% of his kicks last year despite having his most attempts since 2006. That happens when your offense actually moves the ball, apparently. You get more kicks and stuff. It's great. He did miss an extra point though, so you know the end is nigh.

#16 Pat O'Donnell, #1 Tress Way
O'Donnell apparently launched a couple of punts the other day that were so impressive the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Bears fans know good punting, that's for sure. Still, the question will be which of Way and O'Donnell looks more impressive as a directional punter, regardless of how strong O'Donnell's leg is. I still assume Pat wins the job, though.

#48 Brandon Hartson, #46 Chad Rempel
I am not going to pretend to have anything smart to say about either of these guys. Early returns have not been good, though. The longsnapper the Bears end up with may not even be on the roster at the moment. Still, I am rooting for Rempel in order to further Marc Trestman's goal of infiltrating the NFL with ex-CFLers and staging a hostile takeover. Within three years he'll have ensured 12 men on the field and the institution of the rouge. 

#82 Chris Williams, #14 Eric Weems, #80 Armanti Edwards, #18 Michael Spurlock, #32 Michael Ford
I believe the three main contenders for the primary kick returning duties are Williams, Edwards, and Spurlock. I'd be very surprised at this point if the winner isn't Williams. He's got great speed and moves and he's impressed all offseason long. So far in camp he's even drawn some praise as a wide receiver, which I don't think will translate to any meaningful opportunities during the season without an injury ahead of him but can only help his chances of making the roster. 

Weems' days as a kick returner seem long gone, but he's still a nice gunner, among other things. The others are just there if Williams fucks up at this point, I think. 

If you need some encouragement over the Williams thing, here's a pretty impressive highlight video:

Did you watch that? HA. I just made you watch Henry Burris CFL highlights. If you're reading this site and don't know who Henry Burris is, you can just see yourself to the door.


Head Coach: Marc Trestman
It's hard not to like Marc Trestman unless you're a total meatball. He's clearly smart, he's incredibly engaging, he tells you exactly why he does things and is always willing to help everyone understand, and most importantly we've seen now that he's certifiably brilliant on at least one side of the ball.

There's definitely a danger that comes with Trestman, though, and it's a criticism that's been leveled at him for years. He can definitely over-think things to a painful degree, and the occasionally baffling play call or mind-boggling decision to settle for 47 yard field goals on second down is the price he pays. Hopefully in his second year, with a better defense, more familiarity with his players, and also the knowledge that he's proven himself enough to gain everyone's trust, he can take fewer outright gambles and stick with the calculated risk-taking that he proved so effective at in terms of fourth down management and other situations. If he can content himself with merely out-thinking the opponent and not himself, I think we've got quite the head coach here.

Offensive Coordinator: Aaron Kromer
He's the offensive line coach. We know this. I know, I know, Trestman always praises him for helping with the gameplan and everything else, but in the end a guy that doesn't call the plays isn't the OC in my book. Still, as an offensive line coach he is really fucking good at his job. I cannot tell you how funny it is to look at the bill of goods we were sold about "O-Line Guru" Mike Tice and then look at Kromer's actual track record. The man just knows how to get things done and always play to his player's strengths. No complaints here.

Offensive Coaches: Matt Cavanaugh (QBs), Dwayne Peete (RBs), Andy Bischoff (TEs), Mike Groh (WRs), Pat Meyer (OL)
I've been reading this book this offseason and it's a thoroughly engrossing behind the scenes look at an NFL team throughout the entire offseason and regular season. Cavanaugh was the QB coach for the Jets at the time and you get just a little glimpse of his approach and personality in the book. He's got a strong personality and is a bit of a disciplinarian and his approach to Sanchez seemed to clash with the coddling that the QB got from the GM, Rex Ryan, and the offensive coordinator at the time. Not that I believe he could have saved Rico Mirerez' career anyway, but it definitely seems like Cavanaugh is a better fit for a mentally tougher QB like Jay. The other coaches all did well last year as well, obviously, although I do wonder if Aaron Kromer is an offensive coordinator who is really just the offensive line coach what the hell Pat Meyer does on a daily basis.

Defensive Coordinator: Mel Tucker
I have no idea what to think of Mel Tucker at this point. I can see the argument for keeping him and certainly understand the unfair situation he was put in last year, but I've also never seen anything so impressive from him that I thought the Bears shouldn't have at least entertained replacing him. He's definitely got the most tenuous job situation of anyone in the organization. That said, it really is hard to judge a man who was asked to run another defensive coordinator's scheme, verbatim, and then watched all of the key cogs for running that scheme fall apart in the first half of the season. That doesn't excuse him from the utterly atrocious lack of improvement from any of his players throughout the course of the year, but it's also not a reason to believe he can't do considerably better with the players he has this year and the freedom to run things his way. I was pleased to see the Bears fire several of the assistant coaches, however. If they want to say that individual issues added up to the defense's main issues more than scheme, well, there's a damn good argument for that as well. At least they didn't plug their ears and cry injury and give everyone a pass.

Defensive Coaches: Paul Pasqualoni (DL), Clint Hurtt (Assistant DL), Reggie Herring (LBs), Jon Hoke (DBs).

Everyone but Hoke is new this year. Pasqualoni has coached 4-3 and 3-4 defensive linemen throughout his career and has a hell of a lot more experience than last year's DL coach. He should help with the new responsibilities the DL will have this year that'll require a lot more technique than just firing into a gap every play. Hurtt comes from Louisville, where he worked with Charlie Strong to build one of the best defenses in football. Reggie Herring is a scary looking dude:

So...hopefully that'll translate to intimidating linebackers? I guess? Hoke gets a pass for last year's Conte/Wright debacle because of everything he'd accomplished to that point in making those two serviceable safeties for a few years to begin with, and also his work with Tillman and Jennings, among others.

DeCamillis got a lot of grief early last year, mostly because Cordarrelle Patterson ripped the Bears a new one in week 2, but in the end the Bears actually finished in the top ten in most special teams rankings once again. Their coverage units tightened up, which was no easy task considering how many special teams players suddenly found themselves as starting defensive players and DeCamillis was forced to integrate guys fresh off the street, and Robbie was outstanding as usual. The notable weak link was Podlesh and he got the boot (no pun intended. Okay. Maybe a little intended). This year they should be stronger, but the longsnapper question is definitely one they'll have to answer.

That's all for now. Thank God. I've filled my special teams quota for the rest of the year. Go Bears.

1 comment:

Lee said...

Hurtt comes from Louisville, where he worked with Charlie Strong to build one of the best defenses in football.

Storm Johnson and William Stanback disagree.