Every year, the Bears have unsung heroes. Players that do the dirty work but who don’t receive fanfare for their efforts. With Jacob Infante taking a look at the ultimate underdogs and Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. doing his annual top 10 most important players for the season, I decided that the players in between the two need a little love.
Let’s begin this countdown of the underrated and unheralded.
We begin with special teams stalwart DeAndre Houston-Carson. Now, you might ask yourself: how in the world did a former sixth round draft pick who doesn’t have any starts in two season make this list? That’s what makes this exercise fun. After playing sparingly as a rookie, Houston-Carson featured in 11 games on special teams with 10 solo tackles and two forced fumbles.
Those are good numbers for a guy that played sparingly, even on special teams. If there was a player to be excited about picking up the torch as a special teams ace, a long list in Bears’ lore, then look no further than Houston-Carson.
The Bears have other players on this roster because of their special teams prowess, excluding specialists of course. Sherrick McManis and Joshua Bellamy have made a nice career out of doing the little things on the third phase. Given that McManis turns 31 during the 2018 season and Bellamy is turning 29, it’s high time for new faces to step up.
If history’s any indication, the Bears need to be improve on special teams if they want to take a step up from the five wins they amassed in 2017. During their heyday in the mid-2000’s, Dave Toub consistently had the Bears ranked in the top five according to Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. Gosselin’s rankings have long been the standard when viewing how well a team performs on special teams as a unit. The Bears were, how shall we say, not so good in 2017.
There were many reasons for this. First and foremost was the kicking game. After years of the steady, if unspectacular Robbie Gould, Bears fans were subjected to the kind of kicking woes that plagued them in the late 1990’s. The next major culprit is one that many fans won’t want to acknowledge but was a problem nonetheless. Tarik Cohen doesn’t always posses the instincts necessary for an NFL returner. He often retreats after fielding the ball and costs the team field position in the process. He is electric, but he can be nauseating.
So, where does that leave the Bears heading into 2018? The most obvious fixes for improving the special teams unit have already taken place. Swapping out former special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers for Chris Tabor, a former Toub disciple, and the extremely intense Brock Olivo. Next on the list was to get a real kicker on the roster. Enter Cody Parkey, who has made 86.4 percent of field goals in his career: including six of seven from 50-plus yards.
One of the drawbacks of going through the Bears’ rebuilding effort where the roster was overhauled was a lack of depth. That lack of depth has reared it’s ugly head the most on special teams. The 2018 Bears have a lot more of that necessary depth than at any other time during Ryan Pace’s tenure as general manager, though.
The coverage units have a chance to be solid, and the special teams unit as a whole looks poised to take a great leap in 2018. In order for that to happen, Houston-Carson has to have a monster year. Let’s not forget that he blocked nine kicks in college at William & Mary. There he featured as a special teams ace, a role he could soon fill for the Bears. Long story short: the talent is there and he’s already showed glimpses of it. With confidence gained from last season, I expect there to be a jump in production for the 25-year-old.
Now is the perfect time to introduce you to the next great Bears special teamer, and his name is DeAndre Houston-Carson.