Posted March 20, 2013

Devin Hester’s return to returning long overdue

Chicago Bears
Devin Hester is considered one of the best return men of all-time. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Devin Hester is considered one of the best return men of all-time. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Marc Trestman revealed Tuesday that he has no real plans to incorporate Devin Hester into the Chicago offense and instead will ask Hester to focus entirely on being a kick and punt returner.

The general reaction from Bears fans: It’s about time.

The team had tried since 2007 to utilize Hester as a receiver, either by choice or because of a lack of other options. The results were mediocre, at best — Hester averaged 36 catches over the past six seasons, with his numbers diminishing in 2011 (26 receptions for 369 yards) and ’12 (23 for 242).

Hester is one of the greatest return men of all time, maybe even the best punt returner, as his 12 career TDs there indicate. But he’s not a very effective wide receiver.

The whole situation is really as simple as that.

Chicago added Brandon Marshall via trade prior to last season and drafted Alshon Jeffery in Round 2. Earl Bennett, if he’s healthy, should regain his spot in the slot, too, so the Bears ideally do not even have reason to consider Hester at receiver.

In the last season that Hester served exclusively as a return man, his rookie year of 2006, he totaled more than 1,100 return yards (including a league-leading 600 on punts) and scored five times. Last year, as he swapped in and out of the slot-receiver position, Hester mustered just 331 yards on punt returns, with a middling 8.3 average.

There’s simply no value for the Bears in continuing to push Hester onto the field for passing downs. He dropped four of the 40 passes thrown his way last season, did not have a reception of longer than 40 yards and had the lowest yards-per-catch average of any Bear with more than two receptions.

Even if taking Hester out of the receiving mix forces Chicago to use more Eric Weems, Dane Sanzenbacher or two tight-end sets or to draft another receiver, the payoff should be worth it. Allowing Hester to focus on the return game gives him the best chance possible to regain his special-teams dominance.

Opposing teams are scared of kicking to Hester. But they were not worried about Jay Cutler throwing his direction.

So, Trestman’s decision was the only way to go.

9 comments
dbum
dbum

id still use him occasionally and selectively with a very basic route tree, so he can really focus on kick returning but you dont completely take his play making ability out of the offense. shallow crossing routes and the go...very few can flat out run with the guy one on one, and with marshall their, hester dosnt attract that much attention from the defense. 

TimothyJohnson
TimothyJohnson

Hester is a great returner and has done great things for the Bears. If you're a Bear Fan be a Bear Fan and stop whining!

Geno
Geno

I expected Trestman to me more creative.

Geno
Geno

Last I checked Dane Sanzebacher (sic) signed with another team after he was released by the BEARS.

stujoe1966
stujoe1966

Yeah but...do we really need to pay $2 million for a 31 year old return specialist who has developed a problem of running just about every direction but up the field?

metalhead65
metalhead65

 it may have turned out better for hester if they would have had anybody who had any concept of what offense was under lovie smith. whoever came up with the idea that the best use for him was the screen pass should never be allowed to coach football again. it may have worked the first couple of times they tried but it seemed like that was their standard call for him and on almost every third down to, so teams were ready for it. why they never did the same thing they did with bernard berrian is beyond me. I mean rex grossman of all people made him a rich man just by having him go deep and run past everybody every time they threw him the ball. it may not have worked but sure would have been a better idea than how they ended up using him.

BosephHeyden
BosephHeyden

Hester's best days are behind him.  He could have been of more use when they first implemented him as a receiver if they kept the routes to simply "run straight ahead as fast as you can", but they didn't.  Now that Lovie Smith is gone, and a person with actually offensive know-how is in charge, the mistake has been corrected.

BrettYoung
BrettYoung

The bears cut Dane Sanzenbacher last year towards the end of the season