Football

And then there was one.

Eddy Piñeiro is the lone kicker remaining from the Bears extensive offseason search to replace ol’ double-doink, Cody Parkey. Steady Eddy won the right to kick sans competition about as much as the recently cut Elliot “J” Fry lost the job, so sure. Congrats.

But the recent damning article by SI’s Kalyn Kahler about the brief history of this unending quest tells us Eddy shouldn’t get too comfortable. When you have NFL folks quoted as saying that Cody Parkey is easily better than anyone they’ve brought in, Piñeiro included, you best watch your back. You can read the article for the rest of the behind the scenes of what any sane person knew was a batshit circus of a competition; it’s worth your time. You’ll also learn that most of this shit show is probably for nothing, since kicking is based solely on in game results, which no one can tell until September 5th.

But I’m not here to rehash the last few months and, assuming this is not at all over, I want to take a look at the new crop of kickers our pal Eddy is now up against: THE LEAGUE.

The Field – Joey Slye: Best of the rest, but at what cost?

True, the Bears already spent some draft capital on the kicker currently on the team, but he hasn’t made one longer than 47 in a fake games and Slye Stallone here has banged in two from 54+, one of which fans at Soldier got to see in person. He’s a perfect 5-5 on FG attempts and 2/2 on XP. Ryan Pace failed to trade for Kaare Vedvik last week, losing to the rival Vikings because they stumped up to an unconditional 5th rounder. Pace might have to go back to the draft well for Slye instead, as there at plenty others, like the Jets and Cowboys, that have far from certainty at the position.

Slye hasn’t exactly shown a proven record outside of this preseason: Slye was undrafted in 2018, then bounced around from the Bucs to the Browns to out of football to the Giants to summer vacation to the Giants again and eventually landing in Carolina, where he was signed to keep a spot warm until Graham Gano was healthy enough to reclaim his job. Slye has a pretty great backstory of battling adversity and working to achieve his NFL goals in the name of his late brother. He’d hardly be difficult to root for, lack of results be damned. And with a nickname like “Swole”, he’s already earned the hearts of meatball fans without pulling on the GHS armband.

Slye can boast that he’s Virginia Tech’s all-time leading scorer, though. And there are those long makes and impressive ability to simply make the kicks in games. You have to wonder how this guy wasn’t one of the billion legs brought in for a look already, but here we are. It might take a late conditional pick, but Slye passes the eye test which is about all that matters in kicking. The Bears can ill afford to wait it out and hope they can sign him at final cuts, but I also think if they were interested Pace has shown he’ll spend to go get his guy.

A few other notables to watch the next two weeks….

  • Matthew Wright is unlikely to boot incumbent Chris Boswell from his job in Pittsburgh, but the 2019 UDFA is 2/2 from over 40 with a pair of XP as well. Plus, kicking in Heinz is as a good a comparable as any outdoor stadium in the league.
  • Tristan Vizcaino is 2/3 on FGA through two games, going 1/2 from 40+ and nailing a 51 yarder. He  probably won’t win the job over Randy Bullock in Cincinnati. If Piñeiro fails to impress further he might get a call from Pace around Labor Day.
  • Veterans Matt Bryant, Mike Nugent and Kai Forbath all remain unsigned as we approach kickoff in week 1. Bryant may well be done at 41 and isn’t likely to push off retirement to kick in Chicago in December. Nugent and Forbath are probably better than the circus from mini camp, but it’d be unlikely the Bears dial any of them up over anyone already kicking the last month-plus.

NFC North Kicker Thunderdome….

  • Sam Ficken and Mason Crosby are having their own battle up in Green Bay, who were also reportedly in on Vedvik. Ficken and Crosby are both 1/1 on FGA (41/43, respectively), so not much to show yet. Both are perfect on XP as well, so the loser here might not have to wait long for new work if it’s more a coin flip situation than one kicks his was out of town.
  • Minnesota made their intentions clear when they sent a 5th round pick to Baltimore for Kaare Vedvik – he’s pretty much assured to be the guy. That leaves veteran Dan Bailey in limbo, a spot he’s familiar with after a surprise cut from his long time job in Dallas ahead of the 2018 campaign. Bailey is also struggling mightily this preseason, a year after going only 21-28 in FGA for the Vikings. Hard pass if I’m Ryan Pace, but who knows with the way this thing has gone so far.

 

 

Football

Do you hear anything? No? Me either. No noise. No torches and pitchforks. No jobs on the line (yet). It’s pretty boring around here.

Usually in late July we’re all too eager here in Chicago to begin HOT TAKE SZN surrounding the Bears and the NFL. This July, though, feels different. Is everyone just happy to banter about the Cubs division chase and Sox future potential? No, we’ve been doing that every July since 2015. The NBA had a pretty big summer, but the Bulls largely sat that out and everyone is just content they MIGHT make a surprise run at the 8-seed in the East. Hawks prospect camp and convention?? OK, I’m done.

So with nothing new or exciting going on in major sports around the city, why is this late July so different? The Bears, coming off their first playoff appearance since 2010 and second in the last 13 years, have had the quietest offseason in about as long. No new head coach/GM/Front Office personnel. No major signings/high draft picks. Hardly any turnover on the roster/staff, and no real starting positions up for the taking. GM Ryan Pace didn’t even get to make a draft pick until the third day, and there’s been little discussion about the his team or the impending camp since.

The biggest offseason story? Kickers. Cody Parkey long fired into the sun, the talk of both mini-camp and now training camp is the kicking sideshow. Each day’s camp breakdown thus far has started with the accuracy for that day’s kicker; Elliot Fry is 17 of 20 so far! He’s hit from 60 and banged in from 48 and 51 in the driving rain! Eddie Pineiro hit from 63 after doing his best 80s macho movie hunk routine – after his coaches asked him to try from 60 he replied “nah, how ’bout 63”! Suh gnarly, broseph.

The crowds are another HOT story coming out of Bourbonnais. Attendance day one? OVER 8,000!!! Videos tweeted of fans LIGHTLY JOGGING to get front row standing room to see the Midway Monsters strap on the pads and paw at each other! Whoa, did you see that 50-yard bomb from Mitch to Gabriel?? Kahlil Mack and Eddie Jackson are sooooo goood OMFG!!!! I mean, it’s great to see the guys you want to excel succeed in practice, but that’s the bar here, no? To be as good as advertised?

This shit is BORING. But boring doesn’t really mean bad. Consider:

-There was one major coaching change in the offseason, but not the normal refrain of a deficiency in some area. Vic Fangio left to go be the head coach in Denver because his defense was so amazing (while the rest of the team was total ass for most of his tenure). The ensuing hire? Chuck Pagano, a highly regarded defensive mind in his own right that mostly just needs to keep the ship on course. There also are no ‘hot’ seats to speak of at the moment. Weird.

-The players lost to free agency were seen as priced out of their worth at Halas Hall and nary a tear was shed for Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan. The replacements and other new signings were mostly budget buys met with a collective “meh”.  HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skine swap in for Amos and Callahan. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson are here to do something in the backfield. Great, fine. I bet you didn’t even know they signed Ted Larson, again, for O-Line depth or Marvin Hall and Peter Williams. Only one of those guys is made up, but I’m guessing you have to look it up to tell me which one.

-The draft was pretty uneventful as well, unless you count trading up 14 or so spots in the 3rd round “eventful”. Sure, they got their GUY at running back in David Montgomery, or so they’ll tell anything with ears. Even he hasn’t generated much buzz since the draft, a soft spoken type that just does his work and stays quiet off the field. Booooooring. The rest of the draft was all lottery tickets and undrafted free agents because Pace only had five picks to work with. They got a Ridley? No, not the one from Alabama.

-There aren’t any big injuries to get all worked up about, either. Adam Shaheen hasn’t practiced in two days, but that’s basically his whole bag of tricks since being wildly overdrafted three years ago. Someone named Emmanuel Hall is recovering from groin surgery. HaHa is on the PUP list, rehabbing a lower body injury but expected back before too long. Whatever.

So this late July, the start to camp is boring. Embrace the boring, it means that most of us are looking forward to September and could give a shit about what happens between now and then. We don’t even get another open practice for a few days; the team has a shorter, closed practice today and is off Wednesday. There’s a preseason game a week after that, so maybe by the weekend we’ll start to get some real battles for the edge of the roster. Those are the positions that help to define serious championship contending NFL teams from the dregs they beat up.

Boring kinda sucks, but we’ll take it after the last decade worth of summers overstuffed with tough questions. Wait and see how these jokers fighting for their NFL lives fair in game reps in a week or so. If you need your fix the rest of this first week, keep refreshing that twitter account of your favorite beat writer to see where Steady Eddie P tells coach he’s spotting his next kick. HOOOOO BABYYYYY!

@WFrenchman on Twitter