Kick and Punt Returner
The Bears will have agile shoes to fill in the return with the absence of Jakeem Grant, who signed a three-year deal Cleveland Browns this offseason. Velus Jones Jr and Trestan Ebner will be key to watch this weekend. Jones the 71st pick of the draft and Ebner the 203rd both have experience returning kicks in college.
Jones averaged 23.3 yards per kick return and scored one touchdown in 2021. The former Tennessee Volunteer also averaged 15.1 yards per punt return in his final season in college. NFL Scouts praised his special teams skills over his receiving skill.
Ebner averaged 22.2 yards per kick return in 2021 and an eye-catching 32.2 in 2020. In those two seasons, he managed to take three returns to the house. The Baylor Bear product averaged 8.1 yards per punt return last year. Ebner’s efforts earned him the 2021 Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year.
The pair will compete against each other this weekend, and then will face even more stiff competition when the rest of the roster is there. Dazz Newsome and Nsimba Webster are projected to be the starter and backup punt returners respectively. Newsome averaged 12.5 yards per punt return in 2021 and flashed brilliance against the Seattle Seahawks with a 28-yard return.
Khalil Herbert and Byron Pringle are projected to be the kick returners currently. Herbert averaged 24.1 yards a carry in 2021 and Pringle 24.8.
If Pringle and Herbert have bigger roles on offense this season in Luke Getsy’s scheme, it’s likely the two will get fewer reps on special teams, in order to save the speed for the offense and the potential for injury. Ebner and Jones look to have the skills to fill these roles in 2022.
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