May 27, 2024

Defensive back Josh Blackwell, who made a positive impact on special teams last season, earned playing time as an undrafted free agent. Despite his solid performance, a significant learning moment occurred in Week 10, particularly during a game against Carolina.

In that game, the Bears’ special teams allowed a punt return touchdown to Ihmir Smith-Marsette, giving the Panthers an early 7-0 lead. Blackwell, a key player in the unit, had the opportunity to make a crucial tackle but missed, allowing Smith-Marsette to exploit a lane and score.

Reflecting on the play, Blackwell admitted his desire for a big hit led him to mistime the tackle, taking his shot on the wrong side. He clarified that it was a matter of leverage, as he was positioned on the right side as a gunner, intending to take the shot based on the punt coverage strategy employed by the Bears.

Josh Blackwell - 2021 - Football - Duke University

Special teams coach Richard Hightower expressed disappointment in the missed opportunity, emphasizing the importance of converging and condensing to the ball when facing an NFL player with time and space. Despite the error, the Bears managed to rebound, with the punt coverage performing well for the rest of the game, pinning Carolina deep in their territory on subsequent drives.

Blackwell, recognizing the inevitability of mistakes in a career, views this incident as a valuable learning experience. He emphasized the need to remain composed, make the necessary play for the team without seeking the highlight-reel hit, and demonstrated resilience in bouncing back during the same game.

Hightower commended the unit’s resolve and their ability to recover from the mistake, noting the successful punt coverage later in the game. The Bears’ response showcased their commitment to the “one snap and clear” mentality, acknowledging mistakes and focusing on playing solid football moving forward.

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