Right now there seems to be open competition as the Chicago Bears are trying to decide between Eric Weems and Chris Williams to take over the return man position for next season, but looking at the differences between the two players should make it an easy choice.
Stepping into the shoes of Devin Hester easy, but the day had to come at some point. Weems is more experienced. He has been in the NFL since 2007 and even made the Pro Bowl in 2010 while playing for the Falcons. He’s been with the Bears for the past two seasons, returning 18 kicks and one punt over the last two years. He has one career touchdown from a kick return,, but that was back in 2010.
Williams hasn’t played in the NFL. Like the Bears’ head coach, Marc Trestman, he has made a name for himself when playing in Canada. He’s 26 (Weems is 29), and had two very big years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2011 and 2012. He had six return touchdowns in only nine games back in 2012, not to mention being quite the useful and productive receiving target, something that isn’t likely to happen with Chicago.
Williams had a few impressive plays against Trestman himself, who was coaching the Montreal Alouettes. He once scored a 91-yard punt return in an exhibition game and a 70-yard punt return in a regular season game. He also once returned a field goal for 117 yards but lost the touchdown as he ran the last 15 yards backwards, and was tackled at the one.
Weems is reliable, but very far from brilliant. Williams needs to show he has the ability to make the transformation from CFL star to an NFL return man who can be trusted. If it’s about talent and speed, he’s likely to be the man with the job at the end of the preseason.