LAKE FOREST – The Bears are heading into the final preseason game and still don’t have a return man. The kick coverage was bad in Seattle, which was the first game with the punter-long snapper pairing of Patrick O’Donnell and Brandon Hartson.
So, it’s understandable why special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis wouldn’t pick just one aspect with the greatest need to get better.
“I would say all – how’s that?” he said. “You want to have some positive vibes going into the season. I think all of them need to show improvement.”
The Bears’ special teams got overhauled this offseason and it has had a rocky preseason, but the team still doesn’t know the exact personnel for Week 1.
Outside of Percy Harvin’s long return and Josh Huff’s touchdown, the kickoff coverage team is allowing 16.8 yards a return, which is good – but the long returns cannot be ignored, including Earl Thomas’ 59-yarder on a sub-par punt from O’Donnell, when a coverage team made up of mostly core special teamers “didn’t recover like we needed to,” DeCamillis said.
There are three potential starters DeCamillis mentioned who could factor in the mix – Chris Conte, rookie Kyle Fuller, who injured his ankle on kickoff coverage against Jacksonville, and Ryan Mundy, who has been a member of the kickoff coverage unit.
“We’re going to use the best guys,” DeCamillis said. “That’s coach (Marc) Trestman’s philosophy and that’s the organization’s philosophy.”
In addition to cutting Jordan Senn, who was signed early in free agency to be a mainstay on special teams, the Bears also cut Craig Steltz in the past 48 hours.
Although the hope on defense is that the mistakes in Seattle are correctable, with special teams, it’s that continuity in personnel that will help shore things up before Week 1.
“The more you can get the same guys out there, the more they can be working on the same page, DeCamillis said. “The more they know how to play off each other, the more they’re out there together, the better you’re going to be. Unfortunately, the way things are right now, we’ve got a lot of flux going on. That’s the way it is. And we’re dealing with it. We’ve got to be better than we have up to this point. I think we will be.”
As for the still-open return competition, DeCamillis said the plan is for Chris Williams to finally get reps Thursday in Cleveland, along with Senorise Perry and Micheal Spurlock.
Fales gets his shot: Rookie quarterback David Fales will start the Bears’ final preseason game, Trestman confirmed.
“I just wanted to get David in a position where he was getting on the Browns and was really taking some time to prepare for this on really what is a short week for us,” Trestman said.
Injury report: Fuller, Isaiah Frey and Eben Britton all returned to practice in some capacity Monday. Britton had been out since July 30 and Frey since Aug. 5 with hamstring injuries. Tony Fiammetta (hamstring) and Ryan Mundy (head laceration) sat out, while Chris Conte (concussion) was not present.