Between the returns of Devin Hester, field goals of Robbie Gould and top coverage units, Bears special teams for much of the past decade have ranked among the NFL’s elite.
Suddenly, just two weeks after Hester set a franchise record for kickoff return yardage in a game, special teams is looking for answers to problems every bit as hard as defense and offense.
“Sometimes it just gets a little out of whack,” said special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, “and we have to get it back in whack.”
A lot is out of whack. Coverage units are among the league’s worst (31st in average punt return allowed, 30th in kickoff return allowed).
Minnesota returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, the first against the Bears since 2010. A roughing-the-kicker penalty with a 24-3 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers turned into seven points. And Podlesh’s problems in Detroit were exacerbated by punt coverage that allowed a 57-yard return to set up a touchdown that gave the Lions a lead they never relinquished.
The Bears worked out six punters on Tuesday in nothing less than a challenge to the job security of Adam Podlesh.
“Bad mechanics, bad swing thought, there’s a few things that I’ve kind of looked into that I’ve kind of helped rectify the situation a little bit,” Podlesh said. “This week. It’s this week has been good, today was good, hit the all well and kind of figured out a few of those problem areas.”
Blake Constanzo has remained among the NFL’s best on coverage units and has a forced and recovered fumble. The units have some inexperience in rookie linebackers Jonathan Bostic (three tackles) and Khaseem Greene (two) but that does not explain very much with veterans like Costanzo, Sherrick McManis, Craig Steltz and Eric Weems in place.
Indeed, it was not just the rookies and young players being victimzed.
“You get Weems and [Steltz] getting knocked down too, so it’s just one of things you just got to keep working through,” DeCamillis said. “I wish I had a magic wand, I would have already [done] whatever you do with a wand. I would have already raised it up and fixed it.”