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Bears Need Eddy Pineiro to Step Up from Long Distance

Bears kicker ranked among league's worst at field goals made from 40 yards and longer, despite 11 straight field goals made to finish the season

The free-for-all conducted by the Bears last summer at place-kicker produced results generally lauded by coach Matt Nagy and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor.

Getting their votes of confidence had to make Eddy Pineiro feel better going into next week's start to training camp.

"So we never wavered or lost confidence in him," Nagy said after the season. "So I think it’s good. I think you look at any young kicker, and there’s going to be moments, especially in the conditions we kick in, where they go through some of that.

"So just to see him keep his head up, see the team rally around him, it's all good. It's all good for him. Again, I really liked the way he finished."

Uneasy lies the crown.

While it's true Pineiro finished with 11 straight field goals and his overall percentage was better than many of the best NFL kickers in their rookie years, there is a hidden down side to his production.

It's questionable whether he was actually challenged enough. Even some of the "Augusta Silence" kicks from Bears training camp were more challenging than many of those kicks he made in games.

Of course hitting a 53-yard field goal to beat the Broncos led to a wild celebration and kept the Bears from going to 0-2. It was clutch.

That was one kick. He made his 52-yard kick earlier in that game in the thin air in Denver.

However, he had no other 50-yard tries the rest of the season and sometimes the Bears eschewed kicks in the 45-50 range.

Despite the vote of confidence, Nagy showed a lack of confidence in Pineiro at time earlier and it was obvious.

Later, Pineiro seemed to have won some confidence but this isn't difficult making chip shots.

Pineiro only attempted nine kicks from 40 yards and longer. He made five. He tried seven from 40-49 and just the two he made in Denver from beyond 50.

Only two regular NFL kickers tried fewer field goals from 40 yards and longer, the Giants' Aldrick Rosas and former Dallas kicker Brett Maher.

Rosas and Maher had the worst percentages of regular kickers from 40-49, Rosas making 1 of 4 and Maher 1 of 5. The next worst percentage in the league among regular kickers was 43% (3 of 7) by two kickers: Adam Vinatieri and Pineiro.

There has to be a question about whether the Bears even wound up with the right kicker from their search.

Prior to their trade for Pineiro, even before the wild multi-kicker competition that led to a controversial Sports Illustrated article, the Bears worked out Younghoe Koo. But they decided against bringing him in to compete.

Koo went on to take over for Matt Bryant in Atlanta and made 23 of 26 field goals and 15 of 16 extra points, better numbers than Pineiro's. And Koo did this for eight games, not all 16 like Pineiro.

Pineiro made 5 of 9 from 40 yards or longer but the nine attempts from 40 or longer ranked in the bottom five for attempts from this distance for regular kickers.

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When Pineiro made his final 11 field goals, only one was longer than 36 yards and that was a meaningless 46-yard kick to give them their only points in a 28-3 blowout loss to Patrick Mahomes and the world champion Kansas City Chiefs

To compete with Pineiro, the Bears signed Ramiz Ahmed. A former Nevada kicker, Ahmed is supposed to have a strong leg but made only 75% of his Nevada field goals. 

"We always want competition," Nagy said. "Any time somebody feels like that they just have a spot locked in for certain reasons, then I don't know how great that is."

Still, Nagy voiced support for Pineiro based on how he handled that competition.

"But for a guy like Eddy I love the way that he handled last year," Nagy said. "It wasn't easy. And we tried that on purpose with the kicking challenges and competitions that we had. But he pulled through that."

Even without bringing in eight or nine kickers, this could still be a real battle for Pineiro.

Nagy said he would like more touchdowns this year instead of settling for field goals.

No doubt he'd like to have confidence he'll get the field goals if he has to settle for them from 40 yards and longer.

Eddy Pineiro at a Glance

Florida K

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 187

Key Numbers: Pineiro made 82.1% of his rookie field goal tries, the second best percentage for a rookie kicker in Bears history behind Kevin Butler.

2020 Projection: 26 of 34 field goals.

*****

Pineiro's Last 11 Field Goals

Yardage

26, 24, 30, 36, 46, 26, 30, 27, 33, 34, 22

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven