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Monday, August 11, 2014
DeCamillis expects special teams upgrade

By Jeff Dickerson

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Aside from generating additional revenue for the league, preseason football exists to allow teams to work through their issues before games count for real in September.

While the Chicago Bears displayed a multitude of positive signs on both offense and defense in their preseason opener, the third phase, special teams, self-destructed on nearly every level imaginable -- blocked field goal attempt, muffed punt return, penalties, average punts, and a coverage breakdown that led to a Philadelphia Eagles 102-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Time is still on the Bears' side, but special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis feels a sense of urgency to turn things around in a hurry, starting with Thursday night's second preseason contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"I took away from Friday night that we didn't play very well," DeCamillis said Monday. "We had a lot of miscues. What's disappointing is practice had been going well. We felt like it was a good training camp up to [that] point.

"We have to starting finding out the guys [who] are going to be playing for us on Sundays. There's no question about that. It's still an evaluation, but I think one of the things that wasn't as good at the start of [last] year was we didn't start out great. I think they came on after the fifth game and really started playing well. We need to see the guys that are going to play on Sundays. That's our goal moving forward, especially in that third preseason game. We have to see those guys and they have to start playing together as a unit."

DeCamillis cited the windy conditions at Soldier Field last week as a possible reason why punters Tress Way (37.5 yards per punt/37.5 net average) and Pat O'Donnell (43.5 yards per punt/33.5 net average) had only average performances against Philadelphia, although both players appeared to strike the ball well during Monday's practice at Ward Field.

One encouraging aspect to take away from the Eagles' game is that long snappers Brandon Hartson and Chad Rempel were on the mark with their snaps. No decision has been made regarding which of the two the Bears will keep on the 53-man roster, but each offers something unique. Hartson is probably the better pure snapper, but Rempel is extremely athletic and seems to be capable of running downfield and covering a punt if necessary.

As for the return game, Eric Weems is in the drivers' seat, especially since speedster Chris Williams suffered a hamstring injury versus the Eagles. Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall did spend time Monday at practice fielding punts during special teams drills, but don't look for Marshall to be the new special teams secret weapon.

"Brandon Marshall sometimes likes to be in drills he shouldn't be in," DeCamillis said with a smile. "That's above my pay grade."