Positional Analysis: Special Teams

The Bears offense struggled all year, while the defense rebounded from a horrendous start to have a respectable year. Leaving the special teams as arguably the most consistent phase of the game for the Bears.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters: PK Paul Edinger, P Brad Maynard, KR Jerry Azumah, PR R.W. McQuarters.

After hitting 14 straight field goals to open the season, the normally reliable Edinger missed 10 of his last 22 attempts, with two of the misses coming in back-to-back 2-point losses. He had never missed more than six in any of his previous three seasons. He did hit a 45-yard FG to win the Redskins game. Edinger's short kickoffs are also a negative.

Maynard didn't live up to his past performances and was uncharacteristically inconsistent.

The Bears are considering finding a replacement for Maynard, who can also kickoff. Keep an eye on Brooks Barnard, an undrafted free agent out of Maryland that finished the season on the 53-man roster and has since been allocated to NFL Europe. If he proves he can punt and kickoff then Maynard could be expendable and Edinger would have his role reduced.

Azumah and McQuarters finally got a chance to return after each was demoted early in the season, and they both were outstanding. Azumah was good enough to make the Pro Bowl as a kickoff returner.

Both players seemed to use their success in the return game to revitalize their coverage skills. Azumah tied for the team led with four interceptions, while McQuarters became a dependable nickel back.

However for a $4 million cap number in 2004 for a nickel corner/punt returner isn't realistic, so McQuarters will likely have to take a pay cut in order to remain in Chicago.

If the two sides cannot agree on a restructured deal then Bobby Wade could become the punt returner. The rookie won the job out of training camp, but was pulled by Dick Jauron after fumbling his first attempt in the season opener, a move that hurt Wade's confidence for the majority of the first half of the season.

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