Friday, Sept. 9, 2011Posted: 11:30 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Maybe everyone is looking in the wrong direction with respect to the new kickoff rules. More than a few analysts and observers think the moving of the kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 may in fact benefit the Bears.
The Bears dont have Danieal Manning anymore, Johnny Knox of 2010 (22.8 yards per return) was well short of the Johnny Knox of 2009 (29.0 ypr). Devin Hester is a threat anywhere anytime but hes returning punts and only handled 12 KORs last year. So the loss to the Bears kickoff-return game.Well see.
But look beyond that one phase.
As good as the Bears were returning kickoffs, they were among the NFLs worst at giving opponents field position after kickoffs: average start, 28.5 yard line, 27th in the league. Now, given Robbie Goulds leg strength, take, say, three kickoff returns and turn them into touchbacks. Starting point, the 20.
Put another way, every touchback Gould causes nets the Bears 8.5 yards of field position, using last years numbers for illustration purposes only.
And put into a bigger context: The Bears defense allowed a total of eight drives of 80 yards or longer last season. Every defense and its coaches will always take opponents starting at their 20-yard line.
Take this a step further: Every touchback theoretically starts those offenses 8.5 yards farther back, meaning that every defensive stop forces teams to punt 8.5 yards closer to their own goal line. And when they do punt, guess whos waiting 8.5 yards closer to the other guys end zone:
Another reality to consider in the whole kickoff thing:
This years Bears coverage teams are young. No, they are young.
We may have four rookies starting on each phase kickoff returncoverage, punt returncoverage, said teams coordinator Dave Toub. Thats a lot.
Unreturnable kickoffs by Gould then cut down the chances for mistakes, breakdowns and other misfortunes that befall NFL newbies in any position.
Toub shakes his head a little and manages a half-smile as he says that. To put this in perspective, the 2011 Bears offense has one rookie (Gabe Carimi) starting. The defense has none.
So Toub is tasked with staffing his units, where every play is potentially a highlight-film score, with NFL kids who wont be allowed to be kids very long. Not at all, in fact.
Those will likely include Chris Conte, Dom DeCicco, Tyler Clutts, Mario Addison and others.
I played it all through college, DeCicco said. I stayed on kickoff and punt coverage every year. So its something Im comfortable with.
So who has more anxiety going into Sunday, Toub or the rookies?
The rookiesll be fine, Toub said, laughing, then adding the clincher for who will be the stress leader. I think.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.