The Fourth of July is in the rear-view mirror which surely means training camp is around the corner, right? It's almost football season and this positional breakdown series is concluding.
There isn't any turnover at the specialist positions and we're all familiar with the guys who are returning. However there has been some competition brought in.
Let's get to the breakdown.
Starting Kicker: Robbie Gould (9th NFL season)
Job Responsibilities: Get the ball through the uprights. Have ice water in your veins when the game is on the line. Kick the ball deep on kickoffs.
Job So Far: Great. Hard to believe that in his ninth season, Gould has only been to one Pro-Bowl. Bears fans have loved him ever since he took over for the injured Doug Brien (did anyone even remember he was on the Bears?) in 2005. He's always been able to hit the pressure kicks and in the last couple years he's even added the deep range he lacked in his early years.
Confidence Level: High. He will turn 31 this season but there is no reason to believe his production will dip any. He's currently top six in career field goal percentage according to Pro-Football-Reference and his touchback percentage has gotten higher and his career long has grown as well. In short he's still on top of his game.
Starting Punter: Adam Podlesh (7th season)
Job Responsibilities: Pin opponents down and flip field position. Kick it deep and inside the 20. Make opponents drive as far down the field as you can. Also, if in a bind, make a touchdown-saving tackle.
Job So Far: So-so. After his first year in Chicago when he became the first Bears punter to have a 40 yard net on punts (40.4) his second season was kind of a letdown. His net dipped to 39.4, his yards per punt fell from 43.9 to 42.0 and his touchback percentage ballooned from 4.5% to 7.4%.
Confidence Level: High. Podlesh finished last year strong and some of his struggles could be attributed to a hip flexor injury he suffered in camp. Podlesh is a solid punter and should be in place this fall.
Starting Long Snapper: Patrick Mannelly (16th season)
Job Responsibilities: Get the ball into the hands of Adam Podlesh as efficiently and drama-free as possible. And if for some reason Podlesh is not holding the ball on a FG or punting it, put it in the hands of who ever is.
Job So Far: Great. Mannelly has endeared himself to Bears fans by being notoriously reliable for the last 16 years. Few times has he had to be called out for an error and his 231 games played is a franchise record. He will also live forever by being a fixture on Mt. Lunchpail. Oh and he is a mullet enthusiast.
Confidence Level: High. How could it be anything but? Sure he is getting up there in age but he hasn't slowed down a bit and continues to play great year after year. Plus with all the rules regulating lining up over a LS on special teams, he could play until he's 50.
Job Responsibilities: Step in in the event of injury and perform the duty of the starter.
Job So Far: They are both rookies and therefore have no NFL experience. Signor played at Eastern Illinois and Way at Oklahoma. Last month Brad Biggs suggested that Way was a bit more than just another camp leg but we'll see.
Confidence Level: Low. I don't see how either of these guys is more than a camp leg. Give the guys a rest, provide some competition to keep it interesting in camp and have some names on an emergency phone list if Gould or Podlesh pulls something. There are no long snappers other than Mannelly listed on the depth chart but I wouldn't be surprised if one of the undrafted offensive lineman has that experience just to help give Mannelly some breaks.
Overall Confidence Level: High. The guys who have been around are basically shoo-ins to keep their jobs. All three are among the best at their position in the league. The Bears are in good hands and should continue to have their excellence in special teams continue under Joe DeCamillis. Barring an injury or major upset, I think the specialist positions will remain in tact for another season.
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