Devin Hester’s return to returning long overdue
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.