By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) It’s Week 5 of the NFL season, and the Bears still don’t know who their kick returner is. For two weeks, it was undrafted rookie running back Senorise Perry, then it was Rashad Ross, who was waived Tuesday. Unless the job is given back to Perry, the Bears will use their third different kick returner this Sunday against the Panthers.
Thus far, Chicago’s average starting field position has been the 23-yard line, which is the seventh-worst mark in the league. Just a few weeks ago, coach Marc Trestman said teams have a 15 percent chance of “making money at the other end” when they’re asked to drive 80 yards. The Bears have fared slightly better this season, scoring touchdowns on six of their 28 drives of 80 or more yards.
But what’s hard to understand is how the return situation has gotten to this point. The Bears parted ways with Devin Hester seven months ago. As meaningless as the NFL preseason is as a whole, special teams is the one phase in which teams can get effective personnel evaluations. Yet, through four weeks of the preseason and four weeks of the regular season, the Bears are still searching for answers.
Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis has found the process to be frustrating.
“We thought we had some options that were going to be taken care of during training camp,” DeCamillis said. “That’s really what we anticipated. Unfortunately, injuries, some other things came up. So has it been a little frustrating? Sure, it’s been frustrating. But it’s part of the job. It’s what you’ve got to do and you’ve got to keep cranking through it and make decisions based on what’s best for your team.”
General manager Phil Emery and the personnel department have done just that. On Tuesday, the Bears elevated Chris Williams from the practice squad and this afternoon they signed Teddy Williams off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. Williams is a player who DeCamillis is familiar with from his time with the Cowboys
“We had him (Teddy) on the practice squad in Dallas when I was there,” DeCamillis said. “Then he’s knocked around since — he’s gone to Indianapolis and he’s gone to Arizona and he was one of those guys that showed up on tape.”
Which Williams is active and in the returner role Sunday remains to be seen, but Panthers kicker Graham Gano doesn’t leave many opportunities with his big leg, which means the Bears may not have clarity about the role until Week 6 or beyond.
“This guy on kickoffs, I believe he’s got 18 kickoffs, and he’s got 15 touchbacks,” DeCamillis said. “So it’s not a huge week for kickoff return. He’s probably top-five strongest kickoff guys in the league.”
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.