The Bears have had outstanding special teams for a few years now. Their stellar special teams coach Dave Toub only goes back to 2004, but their solid special teams play goes back even further. Maybe it's the defensive mentality that has been so prevalent in Chicago for so long that causes them to be so wary of field position. Then again it could all be tied to long snapper extraordinaire Patrick Mannelly who has appeared in 215 games as a Chicago Bear. He could be oozing his special teams essence on the rest of the team.
With the help of the premium content at Pro Football Focus we'll take a look at the performance of the Bears players in 2011 with an eye towards 2012. The entire offense is in the books and you can find the series in this general area. Next week we'll start on the defense, but right now it's the special teamers. Before we get into the 3 specialist positions, we'll take a general look at those Bears that graded out favorably or unfavorably on special teams according to PFF.
In the general special teams category Julius Peppers led the way with a +3.0, due to his blocked kicks. Dom DeCicco was next at a +2.0, followed by Corey Graham and a +1.5. Zach Bowman was at the bottom of the Bears list with a -4.0. Bowman was hurt by his 5 special teams penalties.
Over in the kick return category Devin Hester ranked 10th with a +4.9 and Johnny Knox graded 16th with a +2.8. Now onto those that get paid exclusively for the special teams...
Robbie Gould - Signed through 2013 - In my opinion Gould is one of the best placekickers in the NFL. The one knock on him early in his career was his leg strength, more specifically his ability to hit 50+ yard field goals. He's worked on this and is now one of the more accurate long kickers in the game. He went 6 for 6 from 50+ in 2011. He's #5 overall for FG accuracy in the history of the NFL.
Pro Football Focus had him tied at #5 with a grade of +28.9. He also had a career best average distance on his kickoffs at 67.7 yards. Only 43.2% of his kickoffs were returned and his 42 touchbacks was 9th best.
Adam Podlesh - Signed through 2015 - The big free agent acquisition didn't give us any reason to long for the 8 year Chicago Bear Brad Maynard. Podlesh did a good job punting, and a good job as the holder. His 40.2 yards net was 5th best in the league, he had 27 punts fair caught (4th), and 13 punts downed (4th). PFF had him as their 11th graded punter with a +14.7.
Patrick Mannelly - Signed through 2012 - Mannelly will be back, and he'll be snapping as good as ever.
Chris Massey - Free agent - The veteran long snapper was signed to fill in for Mannelly. He did his job splendidly, but now that The Man is back, Massey will be looking for work.
2012 OUTLOOK - The Big 3 aren't going anywhere and Hester will be back returning kicks and punts. The coverage units may need a tweaking, as Pro Bowler Corey Graham is set to be a free agent. Graham had a positive grade from PFF for his nickleback work, so he may find a better pay day elsewhere.