Opportunity Knocks

Jerry Angelo has stressed the need for a powerful leg on kickoffs, thus Paul Edinger's place kicking position could be in jeopardy.

Despite Edinger's excellent accuracy in 2000 and in 2001, Chicago may have a new kicker this season. In 2000 as a rookie, Edinger converted 21 of 27 field goal attempts, and last year the former Michigan State Spartan converted 26 of 31. Edinger is one of the most reliable young place kickers in the NFL, but the Bears were less than pleased with Edinger's kickoffs.

This off-season, the Bears brought in former Dallas Cowboy Jon Hilbert to compete for the job in 2002. Hilbert received his first NFL chance in Dallas last season, after a mid-season injury to PK Tim Seder, Hilbert cashed in on this opportunity by converting on 11 of 15 field goals.

Chicago's game strategy will rely on good defense, time of possession, and field position. Typically, short kickoffs will create better field position for the opposing team, and can encourage the occasional return for touchdown. Thus, the more powerful leg of Hilbert will be competing for the position this year.

"They told me it's a fifty-fifty chance going into training camp, so whoever kicks better is going to get the job," said Hilbert. "I played for Dallas last season and had a good season there, I kicked off really well in college, and I think I can do both in the league," he added.

Hilbert is thought of as more of the power kicker with less accuracy than the sure-footed Paul Edinger. Hilbert, a soccer style kicker, will need to prove that he can hit the medium to long-range field goals with consistency in the NFL.

The Bears have confidence that Hilbert can handle kickoffs, they also believe in Edinger when it comes to field goals, which begs the question, why not keep both?

In today's NFL with numerous injuries and increased substitution during games, Chicago and many other NFL teams feel that they cannot warrant three of the 52 men on their roster handling the kicking with punter, field goal kicker, and kickoff specialist. If the Bears could afford to leave one man off their roster at a position where substitution is not normally made such as the offensive line.

The most recent and successful three man kicking team was in Indianapolis with punter Hunter Smith, place-kicker Mike Vanderjagt, and kickoff specialist Danny Knight.

Most likely, the Bears will have to choose from one of the two as their full-time kicker, and with a fifty-fifty chance for either to win the job; it should make for an exciting competition.


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