In an ongoing effort to find their replacement for Pro Bowl kick returner Devin Hester, the Chicago Bears have come up empty thus far. The team gave former Pro Bowler Eric Weems first crack at it, though he was largely underwhelming and the team cut ties with him last week. If the Bears hope to contend this season they need to find a returner they have confidence in by the end of this week when they face off with the defending Super Bowl Champions Seattle Seahawks.
It is no surprise that the Bears are having a hard time finding someone to fill Hester’s shoes, though it would be encouraging if they could at least find someone that was competent enough to not make mistakes in the return game. Let’s face it, finding another Hester will likely not happen, he was a once in a decade talent in the return game and the Bears will not be that lucky again. It is time to flush away hopes of finding another home run hitter that can re-write the return record books in the way that Bears fans grew accustomed to over the past years.
Instead the Bears must focus on finding a replacement that values ball control above all else. With a defense that has a chance to be decent at best this season, the Bears will need to do all they can to win the battle of field position to allow their defense enough room to work. They can not afford any more muffed punts like they have been prone to over their first two preseason games when the regular season begins and the games actually mean something.
On Friday night when the Bears take on the Seahawks in Seattle, Michael Spurlock is expected to get first shot at returning kicks, something that he has done fairly well during his NFL career. The journeyman has appeared in 67 games over his career for six different teams prior to joining the Bears. Over that span he averaged 9.6 yards on 81 punt returns with 2 TD’s and 24.2 yards and three TDs on 107 kickoff returns. Though he also has one muffed punt already this preseason for the Bears.
A dark horse in the returner race is former CFL standout, Chris Williams. Williams has appeared in one preseason game for the Bears this year and scored on a 73 yard TD reception where he out-ran the entire Philadelphia Eagles defense. Williams injured his hamstring on the reception and has just returned to practice this week. If he is healthy I would expect the Bears to give him a shot at return duties at some point during the game. After all he did set a CFL record with six return touchdowns in 2012.
Whichever direction the Bears go with their return game, they need to do all they can to figure it out as soon as possible, they want as few question marks as possible heading into a regular season in which they will be fighting for a playoff spot.
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