Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.
It seems like Devin Hester always picked a crucial time to return a kick or punt for a touchdown during his great career in Chicago. What was the Bears record when he scored on special teams?
The Bears went 13-5 in games in which Devin Hester returned a kick for a touchdown. The contests where he made the biggest difference, in my opinion, were victories over the Cardinals 24-23 in 2006 when he returned a punt 83 yards for the winning touchdown; over the Rams 42-27 in 2006 when he brought back two kickoffs of 94 and 96 yards for TDs; and over the Broncos 37-34 in overtime in 2007 when he scored touchdowns on a 75-yard punt return and an 88-yard kickoff return.
Jimmy Graham scored eight touchdowns last season. However, I don’t think he’s really appreciated. I think he’s the perfect end zone threat because of his height and skill set. So why is he so undervalued?
Hazel Crest, Illinois
That’s a very good question. There was a lot of speculation from fans and media heading into the offseason that veteran tight end Jimmy Graham could be a salary cap casualty. But when you talk to people inside the Bears organization both on and off the record, it becomes evident that that wasn’t even a consideration because they highly value Graham both for what he’s still able to do on the field—he led the Bears with eight touchdown receptions last season—and the veteran leadership he brings to the locker room. I’m really not sure why it seems he’s underappreciated outside the organization. If a young player caught eight TD passes last year, everyone no doubt would describe him as a rising star. Here’s what tight ends coach Clancy Barone recently said about Graham: “There was never any curiosity within our building whether he was going to be back or not. We knew from Day 1. He’s invaluable. He’s a guy that takes phenomenal care of his body. He’s the guy that always stays in shape. The thing also with Jimmy, he’s a great culture guy for the locker room and he gets it. He’s a guy a lot of people lean on and so forth and listen to and so trying to build that great culture in the locker room, Jimmy is a guy that I think is part of that foundation.”
With no fourth preseason game this year, how do you see this impacting coaching decisions regarding who plays the most during the preseason games and determining depth chart backup players?
Bears coach Matt Nagy has not yet addressed the subject and I don’t expect him to probably until August. I do know that he had planned to play starters more in the preseason last year than he had in his two previous seasons as coach. But, as we all know, the preseason was cancelled due to COVID-19. So I imagine that starters will see more action this summer, but we’ll have to wait and see. League-wide, I don’t think the elimination of the fourth preseason game this year will make much of a difference. NFL teams generally rested their starters in that contest in previous years, so the only players really affected will be undrafted free agents and other unproven prospects, who won’t have as many chances to show they deserve a roster spot.
Chalk Talk features fan questions multiple times each week. Email your question to Larry.