With time running out, Bears still need answers in kicking battle

JJ Stankevitz
NBC Sports Chicago

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - With time expiring at the end of the first half of the Bears' preseason game against the New York Giants, Javon Wims hauled in an impressive 29-yard snag from Chase Daniel. The play moved the Bears from the Giants' 38-yard line to the 12. 

It was the kind of play that'll help cement Wims' case to make the Bears' 53-man roster - and also the kind of play the Bears might not call in the regular season, given the pass was caught in bounds and Chase Daniel spiked the ball with just one second remaining. Consider it an important "test" play, though, for seeing how close Matt Nagy can cut it without any timeouts with the clock running at the end of a half. After the game, Nagy said he was pleased with how testing that play - which the Bears have done in practice - translated to success in a game. 

But that success meant Eddy Pineiro would attempt only a chip shot with time expiring instead of what would've been a 56-yard try. 

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"I was itching for a far one, to be honest with you," Pineiro, who made his 27-yard try, said with a grin. 

Nagy, though, said he doesn't view a short kick any different than a long kick so long as it goes through the uprights. 

"So every kick they get, it's going to count and these preseason games carry some weight," Nagy said. "Wherever it's at, I don't care. Just make the field goal." 

Still: Making a 56-yard field goal could've helped Pineiro separate himself from not only Fry, but other kickers around the league who could be on the Bears' radar. Every kicker is expected to make a 27-yarder. Showing an ability to make a kick as long as 56 yards could've been an important marker. 

"I was hoping we would get more kicks, more farther kicks but that's just the way the preseason plays out," Pineiro said. "Next game, maybe I get a long one, maybe you only get short ones. You just never know. That's just part of the game." 

Pineiro made a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter, which was a step in the right direction for a guy who missed from 48 in last week's preseason opener. Elliott Fry, meanwhile, missed wide left on a 47-yard try in the second quarter - his only attempt of the game. 

While Fry did go on to make a PAT, he said it's hard to not think about missing his only field goal try in one of the Bears' four preseason games. 

"You're trying to come back, I know you get an extra point and in the NFL that's like a shorter field goal, a 33-yarder," Fry said. "Still gotta hit those good, try to come back and make that but yeah, it's definitely frustrating. But as a kicker that's what you gotta do, you gotta move on and go to the next one." 

The clock is very much ticking on the Bears' kicking competition, with only five practices and two preseason games left to figure this thing out. Both Pineiro and Fry have had a good game and a bad game apiece - Pineiro is 3/4 without a PAT attempt, while Fry is 1/2 with two PAT makes. Each have made field goals in practice at, unofficially, a low-80's clip. When general manager Ryan Pace said on FOX-32 prior to Friday's game the kicking competition was "close," from what we've seen, it's that way because neither Pineiro nor Fry has separated himself. 

The Bears were interested in acquiring Kaare Vedvik, the kicker/punter dealt from the Baltimore Ravens to Minnesota Vikings earlier this week. But the Bears probably weren't in a position to beat the Vikings' offer of a fifth-round draft pick; they do not have a first, third or fourth-round pick, and their fifth-round pick could reasonably be expected to be a few spots lower than that of the Vikings. 

Plus, dealing a fifth-round pick would mean the Bears would go into next year's draft with two second-round picks and then selections in the sixth and seventh rounds (that could change if Jordan Howard meets certain performance requirements to turn the Philadelphia Eagles' pick from a sixth-rounder to a fifth-rounder, though the Bears shouldn't count on that happening).  

Additionally: Trading a fifth-round pick, when the team has found Adrian Amos, Howard and Bilal Nichols in that round, for a kicker who hasn't played in a regular season game yet might be a little too aggressive, even for a need as glaring as the Bears have. As the Bears begin to pay guys like Cody Whitehair, Eddie Jackson and Mitch Trubisky more money in the coming years, hitting on more mid-round picks will be important to sustaining the success the team found in 2018. 

The Bears could wait and try to snag a kicker on waivers instead of trading a draft pick (or a player), but that may not be a sure thing. 

The kicker-starved New York Jets - who saw Chandler Cantanzaro retire and replacement Taylor Bertolet miss two PATs in a preseason game this week - have a higher waiver priority than the Bears. So do the Green Bay Packers, in case they aren't comfortable with incumbent Mason Crosby or undrafted challenger Sam Ficken going into the season. The Packers were reportedly interested in Vedvik, too, before he was dealt to the Vikings. 

The Bears, then, may need to make a trade - instead of waiting for waivers - if they identify a kicker they believe can be a solution. Because right now, that solution hasn't emerged on their roster with time running out between now and a decision needing to be made by Labor Day weekend. 

"There's still two games left," Pineiro said. "Anything could happen in the next two games." 

With time running out, Bears still need answers in kicking battle originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

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