As the Chicago Bears begin their training camp this week, we’re taking a look at the positional battles that are likely going to develop on the practice fields of Bourbonnais.
Today, we’re taking a look at the team's special teams group.
Okay, deep breaths everyone.
The biggest battle of camp this season isn't between quarterbacks, linebackers, or even linemen, like it is in so many other camps across the NFL. Instead, all eyes are on a group of players who are often sent out to faraway fields to hone their craft in relative silence: the kickers.
After the Bears decided to get rid of Cody Parkey after the season, they shuttled kickers in and out of Halas Hall, and as they convene in Bourbonnais, two kickers have remained on the roster: Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro.
Fry, an undrafted free agent, and Pineiro, whom the Bears acquired in a trade with the Oakland Raiders, have one thing in common: they have never kicked a field goal in a regular season NFL game.
Fans will keep an eagle eye on both kickers throughout training camp and the preseason, but also shouldn't be surprised if neither player is the man kicking field goals and extra points in the season opener against Green Bay, with plenty of options likely becoming available on the waiver wire.
Another potential battle could be held between long snappers Patrick Scales, the incumbent at the position, and John Wirtel, an undrafted free agent who could provide some competition at the position.
Punter Pat O'Donnell is likely safe this season, as are punt returner Tarik Cohen and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, unless Matt Nagy and company decide to change some things up in terms of the responsbilities of the two speedy returners.
The Odd Man Out:
If we're being held to the fire for predictions at the various positions on special teams, here's how we see it playing out:
Kicker: Eddy Pineiro
Punter: Pat O'Donnell
Long Snapper: Patrick Scales
Kick Returner: Cordarrelle Patterson
Punt Returner: Tarik Cohen
Players like Anthony Miller and Kerrith Whyte Jr. could also get opportunities to reutrn kicks and punts in training camp and the preseason, but both would be considered long-shots for permanent roles barring injury.
For more of NBC Chicago's coverage of the Bears' position battles:
7/26 Secondary breakdown
7/24 Linebacker breakdown