Graham emerging as special teams ace
October, 7, 2010
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears' Corey Graham is quietly having a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
Already with 10 special teams tackles in only four games, Graham is on pace to break Tim Shaw's franchise record (30) set just last year.
"I pride myself on it [special teams], and I love doing it," Graham said. "I love [Bears special teams coach] Dave Toub. He's a great coach who I enjoy playing for. I just go out there and do the best I can. I have high goals for myself, and obviously I'd love to go out there and make the Pro Bowl. Hopefully, if I continue to do well, and people start to see it, I'll start getting some recognition for it."
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Bears' Corey Graham has gotten off to a great start on special teams.
Graham also is on track to set the Bears' all-time mark for special team points in a season under Toub, an honor currently held by former special teams ace Brendan Ayanbadejo. The Bears use a formula that awards points for tackles, blocks, scores and returns, while also deducting points for mistakes such as missed tackles and missed blocks.
Graham has scored at least 20 points per game, according to Toub.
"We talked before the year started about how one of Corey's personal goals was to make the Pro Bowl," Toub said. "He's working towards that and is on track right now. He's smart, he's got great football instincts and good speed. Corey is really tough; a great effort player and is very experienced. This is his fourth year as a special teams starter, and he's really peaking out right now."
But the former fifth-round pick is no stranger to special teams success. Graham led the Bears in total points the past two seasons, while recording 57 special teams tackles over his first three years in the NFL.
"Honestly, I've always had success on special teams," Graham said. "Some years you have more tackles than others, and in the past I've played defense so they've taken me off special teams. I would like to think that if I had just stuck on special teams, I would have had the same production.
"Obviously, I want to play on defense, and when you get opportunities, you have to make the most of them. Right now, this is my role, so I'm going to go out there every week and do my best. I just want to make plays. You got to help the team somehow, so if it's on special teams, that's what I'm willing to do."
"Every week he's been right at the top as far as points are concerned," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Play after play, [it's been] outstanding play by him. Pro Bowl-type play from him at that position. We're pretty excited about that."