The Chicago Bears have already begun to one address one major roster issue with two preseason games remaining on the schedule. After last week's preseason loss to the New York Giants, the team has seemingly declared a winner in the battle for its placekicking job. This past Sunday the Bears released Elliott Fry, which seems to point to head coach Matt Nagy going with Eddy Pineiro for the 2019 season. That, however, could change whether Bears fans like it or not.
While Pineiro has outdueled Fry to this point, he is still essentially an unproven rookie. He was on the Oakland Raiders roster as an undrafted free agent last year but spent all of the season on injured reserve after getting hurt in the preseason. The Bears sent a conditional 2021 draft pick to the Raiders for Pineiro earlier this summer as part of their offseason evaluation of kickers, which at one point was at 10 players. The Bears went to training camp with only Pineiro and Fry and now the former All-American at Florida is the last kicker standing.
The Bears have not ruled out bringing in a more experienced kicker before the regular season begins. And when the final roster cuts for all 32 teams take place over Labor Day weekend, plenty of kickers will be looking for new jobs. Here are three things that Pineiro must do in order to convince the Bears that he's the guy for 2019.
1. Keep making those kicks
This should seem obvious but must still be stated. Pineiro has made 3-of-4 field goal attempts in the Bears two preseason games against the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers thus far. Those kicks were from 23, 41, and 27 yards, respectively. The Bears have two exhibition games left before the 53-man roster will be finalized. They travel to play the Indianapolis Colts this Saturday night, then finish up at home against the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 29. As the only kicker on the roster right now, Pineiro should get plenty of opportunities to convince the coaching staff that he's the man for the job.
2. Continue to impress in practice
While the games are important, it's what we don't always see in practices (some of which are closed) that goes a long way towards evaluating talent. Pineiro made all 12 of his practice kicks, including a 60-yarder back on Aug. 3. He made 8-of-9 including one from 60 yards on Aug. 1, and went 5-for-5 early in training camp back on July 28. Fry had his share of misses during practice, and that combined with the early preseason performances is what led the Bears to release Fry. If Pineiro continues to light up the posts in practices in addition to games, he'll continue to make believers out of Nagy and everyone else.
3. Ignore potential outside distractions
Distractions can affect any player at any position in the NFL. And in the case of Pineiro, the biggest potential distraction can be all of the talk about bringing in another kicker. NFL front offices are always scouting players at any given time regardless of who is on the roster. And while Pineiro can't control what management at Halas Hall does, he can control his on-field performances. As long as he keeps putting the ball between the uprights, Pineiro will be the Bears' kicker when they take on the Packers at home in prime time on Sept. 5 to open the NFL season.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Top photo courtesy of www.chicagobears.com)