The older you get, time flies by faster and faster. I can not believe the 2008 NFL regular season is upon us. I love the summer, and seems like this year I blinked on Memorial Day, and now Labor Day is behind us.
Counting down to this weekend, each day we’ll look at an area of the Chicago Bears and predict how things will go in 2008, culminating in a week-by-week season prediction on Friday, which I’ve never done before.
Today: Special Teams
Friday: Final Predictions
Special teams won’t take too long to comment on. The Chicago Bears’ special teams (kicking, punting, returns) have been the best in the business probably since 2005. And it’s not just because of Devin Hester, the greatest returner in the history of the game, since he didn’t arrive until 2006. It must be because of a combination of overall personnel and the unit’s coach, Dave Toub. Now that John Harbaugh has been hired as Head Coach in Baltimore with only special teams’ coaching experience, the door may be opened for another team to snag Toub in the future.
The only real questions with the Chicago Bears Special Teams units in 2008 are how effectively Pro Bowl special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo can be replaced by Nick Roach and/or Darrell McClover, and whether Hester can continue his mind-boggling performances into a third straight season.
Ayanbadejo was signed to a free-agent contract by the aforementioned Ravens after two straight seasons of making the Pro Bowl on special teams, and after a bizarre sequence of public statements last spring. Since Toub has had many different players step up for him, I would have to predict that someone else will fill the void created by the departed ace.
As for Hester, if he were to have another season as he has his first two seasons: remember that with one more return touchdown he will break the NFL’s all-time career mark for return touchdowns: the NFL may implement rules changes given Hester’s astounding impact on the game. I’d love to see Hester have another season as he has in his first two years, but I just can’t see it, so we look for an unfortunate dropoff in the return game. Realistically, how long could the phenom truly keep it up?
Special teams: overall solid, some dropoff in return game in 2008.