Written by Alex Shapiro, NBC Sports Chicago writer and video editor
Does the Pro Bowl need to better recognize some of the best special team players in the NFL? If that were the case, there’s a chance the Bears may have gotten a player to Las Vegas instead of being snubbed.
Josh Blackwell, an undrafted free agent rookie, has earned high praise from coaches all season for his special teams prowess as a gunner and opposing teams are taking notice, too. Blackwell has started receiving double teams on Bears punt coverage, yet he’s still found ways to make impactful plays. Even when Blackwell was thrust into a starting cornerback job against the Packers in Week 13, Blackwell remained a force in the third phase. It was clear the added responsibility wasn’t too much for him.
“The thing about him is he’s hungry and he still wants more,” said special teams coordinator Richard Hightower.
The Bears claimed Blackwell off waivers at the end of August, yet he fit right into the program Matt Eberflus was installing at Halas Hall. Blackwell’s instant success with the team has Hightower excited about how much more Blackwell could develop over the full course of an offseason training program with the team. Hightower also believes Blackwell should be recognized for what he has accomplished already.
“Quite frankly, I think he should be in the discussion for a Pro Bowl-type player,” Hightower said. “It’s not being talked about. It’s not being said. But he is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Every coordinator comes up and talks to me about how good of a player Josh Blackwell is and where did you find him.”
The Pro Bowl only recognizes one kicker, punter, longsnapper, return specialist and overall “special teamer,” on their rosters for each conference.