The Chicago Bears‘ special teams unit boasts one of the most accurate place kickers in the history of the game. They also drafted a young, booming leg at punter to replace Adam Podlesh, a name that will forever make Bears fans cringe after his disastrous season last year. Devin Hester is gone, but there seems to be multiple viable replacement options at returner.
The biggest issue the Bears have on special teams is probably at the most inconspicuous position in football: long snapper.
Former Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly retired this offseason after 245 games with the team, most of any Bears player in history. With no heir to his throne, the Bears brought in Chad Rempel, who was Marc Trestman‘s long snapper in his time with the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL. Brandon Harston, a 24-year-old who played in three preseason games for the Bears last season, is also in camp. Both have been painfully unimpressive so far.
They’ve snapped balls too high, too low, and everything in between, which led special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis to question whether the team needed to look elsewhere for Mannelly’s replacement.
Most teams would scoff at the idea of a long snapper position battle, but with the near-perfect record of Mannelly, the Bears organization and fans hold long snapping at a high standard. Special teams is an often forgotten piece of the puzzle, but field position strategy is still a huge part of the game.
Gould and O’Donnell, who has taken on the nickname “MegaPunt” from Bears fans in Bourbonnais, are primed to perform well this season, and the team needs to ensure that their snapper can keep up. Once final cuts are made on Aug. 30, it is imperative that the Bears get first crack at the long snappers who will become free agents.
Rempel and Harston may improve over the next few weeks of practice, but GM Phil Emery needs to keep an eye on special teams across the league this preseason.