In their third week of training camp, and after one preseason game, the Chicago Bears are making special teams a priority. In their preseason opener, the special teams unit did not look special. They gave up a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, losing a muffed punt and having a 41-yard field goal attempt blocked.
“We didn’t play well on special teams; I think we’re mindful of that,” said coach Marc Trestman. “We’ve gone through it very closely. We’re going to move some people around during the week and see where we go with special teams. But we’re extremely optimistic certainly.”
Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis talked about his unit in Bourbonnais. “We didn’t play very well,” he said. “We had a lot of miscues. What’s disappointing is practice has been going well. We felt like it was a good training camp up to this point. So we’ve just got to be positive going into this next game and try to get some of those things taken care of and try to get some of the mistakes corrected.”
There are openings at long snapper and punter and returners. The battles should make performances better, but it didn’t happen last Friday. “We need to see the guys who are going to play on Sundays. That’s our goal going forward and especially by the third preseason game, we’ve got to see those guys and they have to play together as a unit.”
To be fair, the wind at Soldier Field wreaked havoc on special teams. “It was a tough game,” DeCamillis said. “If you look at the other side, Philly’s guy was struggling too. That was a brutal wind to start out with the first game. We’ll keep it going and see how it goes this week.”
In the returner battle, Eric Weems is the frontrunner. He had returns of 23 and 21 yards on Friday. In 2010, he was a Pro Bowler, and now that Devin Hester is out of Chicago, Weems will be back as a returner.
The spirit of Hester will loom large over the special teams unit. He is a future Hall of Famer, and fans won’t forget not just the touchdowns he had, but the long runs that set up the offense with a short field. The pressure will be on Weems or anyone else who returns kicks/punts.
Chris Williams was going to get a look as a returner on Friday, but he tweaked his hamstring after his 73-yard touchdown reception. “He had the second half, so that was disappointing to see that happen,” DeCamillis said. “But you did see the speed on that catch, so hopefully we can get that formulated in the kicking game.”
It was just one game, so hopefully the special teams unit can transfer their training camp practices to game days.