Since Lovie Smith has taken over the Chicago Bears, he’s always stressed the importance of special teams. So much so in fact that he sought the services of Adam Podlesh last season through a lucrative contract. Podlesh was one of the league’s best punters with the Jacksonville Jaguars before coming to the Bears two years ago.
Last season, he was sixth in net average (40.4), second in return yard average (5.4), had 21 punts inside the 20 yard-line and four touchbacks. This season is a different story. He’s 25th in net average (38.3), second in return yard average (4.6), has 12 punts inside the 20 and four touchbacks. But using the old eye test, he just isn’t as sharp as he’s been in the past. Too many of his kicks aren’t crisp and he’s just not as fluid as you’d like from a punter.
Now, a lot of this may have to do with a leg injury he suffered in the preseason. Even with that being a potential excuse, he’s got to get better. With a defense that had been dominating teams, giving opposing offenses a longer field opens up even more opportunities.
There’s still a lot of time left and Podlesh has a solid track record; yet, for the money he’s being paid, results need to get better. He’s the 17th highest paid Bear (1.65 million) and the league’s sixth-highest paid punter. I’m sure the Bears will look at this number and make a decision based on his production. While he’s not the problem, in a league with a salary cap and some contracts on the horizon, Podlesh may be a luxury the Bears just can’t afford.
Even with me looking on the bright side, the weather is starting to change quickly. I fear a bad punt coming in a key situation. Games are won and lost on field position, and all signs are pointing to this being a potential issue later in the season.
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