Hub Arkush: Special teams make the difference

Wide receiver Joe Anderson's play on special teams could determine whether he makes the Bears' roster. (Lathan Goumas - lgoumas@shawmedia.com)

The only thing that Devin Aromashodu, Kyle Moore, Leonard Pope, Tom Zbikowski and every other player the Bears cut this past weekend have in common is that none made themselves indispensable on special teams. In fact, none made it clear they could even contribute on special teams or they might still be on the ballclub.

One fact of life in the NFL is there is little difference on any roster between the third and fourth running back, the fifth, sixth and seventh wide receivers, the sixth and seventh linebackers or the seventh, eighth, ninth or 10th defensive backs.

Often what separates those players is special teams.

Aromashodu is gone, but when special teams coach, Joe DeCamillis was asked about backup wide receiver Joe Anderson's performance in the third preseason game Friday in Oakland on special teams, he said, "That's the first time he's had some action for us really because of his injury situation early on, but he's done well and accounted himself well, and it's a big week for him this week."

One of the big reasons the veteran Aromashodu is gone and the youngster Anderson is still a Bear is Anderson offers more promise on special teams. If Anderson doesn't show up on special teams Thursday in the final preseason game against Cleveland, he could be gone, as well.

"You know you've only got 46 guys for the (game day) roster so you have to be very prudent with who you keep and what their role is on Sunday because there's only 46 guys who are there so you've got to get the most out of everybody," DeCamillis added.

I asked DeCamillis when it comes down to final roster decisions how the individual position coaches' opinions on players are weighed next to his needs on special teams

"We've already met so much that most of the meetings at the end are really just kind of to finalize things more than anything else," DeCamillis said. "We've met a lot of times on personnel during this camp, so we already have a pretty good idea of where we're going to go, but in that last meeting you want to make that last little push just to make sure your voice is heard."

Which remaining roster decisions will be impacted by special teams?

Tony Fiammetta is the Bears' only fullback, but the West Coast Offense really calls more for an H-back than a fullback, and all four remaining tight ends on the roster have been used in the H-back role.

Obviously, Martellus Bennett is safe, and Steve Maneri as the best blocking tight end appears to be too. But the Bears could very well keep all of the remaining three, or more likely keep just two among Fiammetta, Fendi Onobun and Kyle Adams. If any of those three are deficient on teams, they probably will be gone.

The Bears will keep five or six wide receivers. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are in. Eric Weems appears to be safe more because of special teams than his wide receiver play. That leaves Marquess Wilson, Josh Lenz, Anderson, Earl Bennett, Terrence Toliver and Brittan Golden battling for what most likely will be three spots.

Because none of the other players has looked like a No. 3 wideout in games and we know Bennett can be one, and because he is probably the second-best punt returner on the team, let's assume he's in. And we know the Bears really like Wilson.

So the choice between Anderson, Lenz, Toliver and Golden will in large part come down to who offers the most on special teams, unless Anderson is just too far ahead of the rest as a pass catcher.

J.T. Thomas may never be an NFL linebacker, Brandon Hardin, Anthony Walters and Thomas Nelson may not be safeties, and we aren't really going to know when the final cut is made whether Demontre Hurst and C.J. Wilson are NFL cornerbacks.

But we can be certain at least a few of them will prolong their NFL careers this year with what they offer to special teams.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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