When Devin Hester was drafted, he was seen as a key to the Bears future in the return game. Not taking anything away from him and his awesome skills, Hester is only a small part of why the Bears' special teams unit has been and will continue to be the best in the NFL, possibly even the best in NFL history over a five-year period.
While Hester is definitely the face of the unit, Dave Toub is the brains. He is little seen and doesn't get national recognition, but he is where it starts. With him still coaching, the schemes will stay the same, so to stay on top the Bears need to find pieces that will run the X's and O's to allow Hester to keep changing the game for the Bears.
In the past, the Bears have had great special teams players. These guys are the true blue-collar, down and dirty guys. Usually one or two of these guys will become fan favorites. I look at Tim Shaw as an example. Looking at the last two games that the Bears played against the Packers, the Bears lost the field-position battle. The punter from Green Bay did an excellent job not allowing Hester to flip the field. With the rest of the league seeing that, you know they will try to attack as the Packers did. So the Bears must adapt and add more talent on this unit.
Brad Maynard has done the Bears a good job over the years, but he seemed to struggle towards the end of the season. The Bears have brought in Richmond McGee who had been on the practice squad. I think this allows for the Bears to part ways with Maynard, who is a free agent.
While it is hard to judge special teams talent from watching games on TV, here are a few names that may help the Bears next year. Some I have mentioned in previous articles as fitting in at other positions, a must to make the squad.
Mark Weivoda. Mark is a defensive lineman who is currently playing for the Chicago Rush. He is a solid lineman, but as a huge bonus, he has a great ability to block kicks. While in college, he blocked an NCAA-record six kicks in one season and nine for his career while at Idaho State. Put Weivoda between Idonije and Peppers and watch the balls start falling. If the Bears get a rep for blocking kicks, teams will punt instead of trying those long attempts.
DeJuan Alfonzo. DeJuan played last year for the Rush as well. He is a good enough athlete to play receiver, but was mainly a linebacker. He was named the 2010 AFL Ironman of the Year. He would be a fit as a backup linebacker or tight end and be a stud on the kickoff and punt teams. I don't know what his status is for this season, but he would be a great pickup.
Jeff Hughley. Jeff is a tremendous returner. He could be Robin to Hester's Batman in the return game. In the 2010 AFL season, he had 91 returns for 1,642 yards and two TDs. As a receiver he had 113 receptions, 1,258 yards and 28 TDs. Jeff is not a big guy, but very explosive.
Bryan Crawford. We have taken a chance with the CFL's leading receiver from 2010, why not the leader in special teams tackles? A running back by trade, Crawford led the CFL with 26 tackles on special teams. He could fit in nicely as a complementary gunner or kickoff team wedge breaker.
The Bears will for sure look to the upcoming college pool to add depth to this unit, but these are a few guys that the Bears could plug in, improve and save some money to pursue a high-level free agent.