The all-important third phase has mixed reviews for the Bears.
There is no question the Bears are the worst in the division when it comes to kickers, but they’re among the best when it comes to return men and punters, the latter not having much competition.
With an offense still expected to struggle, the Bears will desperately need this third phase to be productive.
2. Green Bay
While he’s 35 and coming off of a bit of an off year, Matt Prater’s ability to make kicks from basically anywhere puts him atop this list. Mason Crosby is coming off of a career year, but entered the season fighting for his job. His made field goal percentage seems likely to dip back down into the low-80s Dan Bailey also had to earn his job in camp, but he did so and missed just two kicks. He was three-for-three on 50-plus yarders.
The Bears still need to keep an eye out for a replacement for Eddy Pineiro, who not only had the worst field goal percentage in the division last year, but had maybe the easiest job with just nine field goals beyond 40 yards. He missed four of them.
3. Green Bay
The Vikings have one of the better punters in the league. The rest of the division…does not.
Britton Colquitt signed with the Vikings last year and averaged 45.2 yards per punt. He has had three punts blocked in his 10-year career, all coming when he played for the Cleveland Browns. He has the highest net average in the division by two yards.
Pat O’Donnell gets the edge over J.K. Scott because he averages about a half a yard more per punt, but neither team should be overjoyed with their situation. O’Donnell’s 44.9 career averages is adequate enough, but he’s also had four punts blocked in his career and his slow release has led to several other close calls. Scott has only had one punt blocked, but he has also only been in the league for two years. Both tend to shank punts in big moments.
The Lions appear to be ready to go into the season with two punters who have never played in the NFL.
4. Green Bay
There isn’t much that needs to be said about Cordarrelle Patterson topping this list. He’s a historically good kick returner who averaged 29.5 yards per return with a touchdown last year.
Jamal Agnew had a good year for Detroit, averaging 26.7 yards per return with a touchdown. Tyler Ervin had the same average for Green Bay last year, but only had six returns after signing late in the season. His career average is less than 22 yards per return.
Ameer Abdullah never lived up to the hype out of college, but he has been a good return man in the NFL, averaging 27 yards per return.
3. Green Bay
Agnew tops this list as he has averaged 11.3 yards per return with three touchdowns since entering the league in 2017.
Tarik Cohen remains a dangerous return option for the Bears with a career average of 10.4 yards per punt return and a touchdown, but is coming off the worst year of his career with a 9.2-yard average.
Like with kick returns, Erving gave the Packers a boost late last season, but only had 11 chances in four games. He averaged just 7.2 yards per return total in 2019, combining his time with the Packers and Jaguars.
The Vikings don’t seem to have a punt returner set. It could be Mike Hughes, who led them with 14 returns last year, but he figures to move into a starting cornerback position. Otherwise, it seems rookie K.J. Osborn is their best option.