While much of the offseason has been focused on the work being done to the Bears' defense, as well as the pieces that have been added and lost on offense, general manager Ryan Pace has been adding to the third unit as well.
Under former GM Phil Emery special teams slipped from the perch they had held for the better part of this century as one of the better units in the league to one of the worst.
For years fans became accustomed to the stellar play that special teams coordinator Dave Toub got out of return and coverage unit players such as Devin Hester, Brandon Ayanbadejo, Craig Steltz and the immortal Patrick Mannelly, among others.
After the dismissal of Lovie Smith, Toub moved on to Kansas City and under Emery, the attention and emphasis once given to special teams, waned.
Suddenly young, practice squad-type players were filling out the return units and the back-end roster turnover caused poor play. New special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis didn't live up to the hype he received when he was hired and the result was some of the worst special teams play that many Bears fans could remember.
In the two years under Marc Trestman and DeCamillis, the Bears saw two kick returns against them, not to mention muffed returns and fumbles.
Last year things appeared to get even worse with three combined returns by opponents.
Fans should feel better though because this offseason Pace has shown that he is committed to the third phase of the game.
Pace has brought in Aaron Brewer, a more experienced long snapper and Omar Bolden, a solid punt return specialist and all-around special teamer. He also re-signed Deonte Thompson who took over kick return duties late last season and showed promise. Finally, Pace brought Marc Mariani back into the fold, while Mariani caused much frustration among fans last season as a returner, he is good on coverage unit and, for the most part, has solid hands on returns.
The GM also returned Sherrick McManis, Sam Acho and Chris Prosinski, who were also key contributors last season.
After a few seasons of instability and frustration, could the Bears see marked improvement on their special teams unit this year? It will still be months before that's determined but the fact alone that Pace has allocated resources to the unit is a promising start.