Bears’ hope for Hester: Catch more passes, return fewer kickoffs

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Devin Hester may be the best return man in NFL history, but that doesn’t mean that’s his primary role in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune connects the dots with the addition of Eric Weems and Devin Thomas, two players with experience as kickoff returners, and notes that last year Johnny Knox averaged more yards per kickoff return than Hester, and says it all adds up to the Bears making Hester an integral part of the offense at wide receiver and cutting down on his kickoff returns.

“We have that versatility now,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We added another good player into the [kickoff-return] mix in Devin Thomas.”

Chicago has pushed Hester as more of a receiver and less of a returner before, in 2009, when he had a career-high 57 catches and career lows in both kickoff returns (seven) and punt returns (24). Hester has always been a better punt returner than kickoff returner and will almost certainly remain the primary punt returner this year after leading the league with a 16.2-yard average last year.

But on kickoff returns it appears that the Bears are ready to phase him out. Knox is recovering from a serious back injury and may not play in 2012, but the presence of Weems and Thomas will allow Hester to sit kickoffs out.

61 responses to “Bears’ hope for Hester: Catch more passes, return fewer kickoffs

  1. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

    Face it people, Devin Hester is just not that great playing the wide receiver position.

  2. before everybody dumps on him as being a horribe reciever remember he has nobody so far that has a clue how to run a offense or how to use him in one. ron turner’s big play was the wide reciever screen he called on every third down which after the first 2 times it was used teams knew it was coming and had 5 guys there before he caught the ball. that might lower your average just a little. and then you had martz and his 18 step drops which when cutler was not getting killed had him dumping the ball to forte since he had no time throw it deep to hester or knox on a consistant basis. maybe tice will be the guy to run a balanced nfl offense that will take advantage of his skills for a change.

  3. I don’t understand why Hester doesn’t return every punt and kickoff. Clearly that’s where his value is the highest.

    If you want to insert him at WR for possible production and probable decoy, go for it. But keep him back there returning kicks.

  4. The little bit I saw of the Bears, he did not look like a good receiver. Impressive return man though.

  5. Havent they learned yet that he is best fit as a kick returner or punt returner. Actually wish they would trade him and get a 2nd receiver for our offense or a real TE. Not a BIG FAN of Kellen Davis. With Weems in the mix I think we are set as kickoff/punt returner. GO BEARS!

  6. Devin Hester is not nor ever will be even a decent NFL WR…. When the Bears finally figure that out, they may actually build a real offense

  7. This explains why the bears are the bears, you take the GOAT at one position and want to play him at a position he didn’t even play in college.

  8. Kind of a backwards step for the Bears. Hester is a great return man and a lower tier receiver.

  9. You know what’s a good idea? Taking the best kick/punt returner of all time and converting him into an average receiver.

    Worked for Dante Hall.

    tl;dr How does Lovie still have a job???

  10. Hester is a Hall of Fame returner and marginal WR.

    Let the man do what he was born to do…

  11. Do the Bears have the shortest/smallest WR corps in the league? Cutler is not amused.

  12. This is one of the most jacked up decisions in pro football over the past 25-years. You have the BEST return man in the game ever. Period. Use him for field advantage which is far more important than some 5-year dink pass that goes nowhere.

  13. I don’t understand why the Bears insist on trying to make Hester a wide receiver. Nothing in this guy’s history suggests that he can successfully make this transition and the Bears have been trying this since 2007. Also, why do they want the best returner in league history to return LESS kicks?! Who cares if they have Weems?

    Lovie Smith is a complete moron. He’s as stubborn with this as he is with his outdated Cover 2 base defense.

  14. Best return man ever, let him do what he is best at. You should have integrated him into the offense more when you DIDNT have Brandon Marshall.

  15. I’ve never understood the Bears’ fascination with playing Hester at receiver. He can play the position, yes – but is he really a better option than Knox or Bennett? In my opinion, the team would be better served letting him be the sole return man. He works magic that way. I feel like if they simply lined him up as a returner he would have a bigger impact on the win column. I’m actually a little disappointed we never got to see him develop as a cornerback. Maybe this is Chicago trying to justify all the money they pay him? The constant dedication to playing him at wide out baffles me. And I still don’t understand how he is able to wear the number 23 since he is no longer a defensive back.

  16. Hester’s return style has always been more suited for punts (where running side to side and moving around a lot works) than it has kickoffs (catch the ball and run straight forward until you get clobbered). That said, Hester is at best a 3rd wideout so I don’t expect much out of him in the passing game.

  17. Don’t they say this every year, and every year he fails to be anything more than a below average receiver?

  18. Hester has said before that he prefers punt return to kickoff return. This isn’t a surprise.

  19. So, Da Bears don’t want their x-factor to return kicks anymore (which he’s tremendous at) and want him to focus on catching more passes (which he isn’t that good at). Smart.

  20. The problem is that they keep lining him up as a wide out instead of playing him in the slot.
    Get him in the middle of the field where he can do some damage instead of hemming him up against the sidelines.

    Short dump passes where he can break one will work much better.

  21. I dont understand why the bears dont just make him the highest paid KR in the league, and let him do his thing. As a panthers fan, ive seen how big special teams can be.

  22. It seems this article comes out every year about before pre-season.

    The fact is, he is a converted DB and if that transition worked, more teams would do it.

    If the Bears want to do whats best for them, they should keep who is reguarded as the best returner of all time back there.

  23. Great idea, that’s like wanting Joe Flacco to throw more, and do less of what he does best: handing off to Ray Rice.

  24. So the Bears have decided to take the kick returner in the history of the NFL and turn him into a below average receiver who oft-times lacks the mental fortitude to line up correctly (or even facing the right direction).

    Just a bad and short-sighted move. The Bears have mis-managed Hester’s entire career. He should have always been a guy that returns punts & kickoffs while sprinkling him into the offense as a gadget-type player be it a receiver, in the backfield, or even taking snaps via the wildcat. But to act like he is now, ever was or ever will be anything more than just a middling full time WR is pure fallacy.

  25. So, don’t let him return a kick 50 yards so he’ll be rested when the Bears are at the 20, where Hester won’t catch a pass? Brilliant! Did the Vikings take Moss off the field after he ran a 50 yard go route? No. You just run the ball the other way while he catches his breath. Hester shouldn’t leave the field unless he has to grab some oxygen or throw up.

  26. Please realize that this only refers to kickoff returns. Hester will still be the primary punt returner.

    Hester has 12 career punt return TDs vs. five career kickoff return TDs. He has only one kickoff return TD in the past four seasons.

  27. Devin Hester should return EVERY punt and kick. The fact that he is back there changes the mindset of their opponent and can dramatically change the game. He is not a very good receiver and should really only be used to take the top off the defense occasionally. The Bears may have been better off using him as a CB or FS all these years. To take one of the best the game has ever seen and remove most of his opportunities is just plain dumb. It’s like saying “We want to limit the number of runs for Barry Sanders so that he can focus more on pass protection.”

  28. As a lifelong Packers fan, I concur with this line of thinking.

    In fact, take him off ALL kickoff and punt returns …. PLEASE !!!

  29. maybe as a #3 behind marshall and bennett. and if knox was playing, hester would be #4… but with knox out, no reason not to implement hester on occasion. it would be foolish to keep hester away from returning punts… and some of the kickoffs…

  30. That’s it let’s replace the greatest return man ever with some average guys. Then we will take the greatest return man ever and make him average.

    Why didn’t they take the resources they used to find additional return men to find additional receivers.

  31. “Hey, do more of what you’re bad it and less of what you’re good at”

    Sounds like a formula for success.

  32. So, The Trib didn’t actually quote anyone from the Bears saying that Devin Hester will return fewer kickoffs, they just “connected the dots”? I don’t know about you, but I just put a ton of faith in the armchair predictions that sportswriters make about how a team will look before the draft, minicamps, training camp or the preseason have taken place.

    The Bears lost one of their best special teamers in Corey Graham, and might lose Zach Bowman as well, so it makes sense that they signed some people to replace the losses. Also, Johnny Knox literally broke his back last year. Even if he can resume his career, no one knows if he’ll be ready to go right away. If anything, all this points to Hester getting more snaps as a returner, not less.

    And since someone asked, no, the Bears do not have the shortest WR corps in the league. Brandon Marshall is 6″4, and Devin Thomas is 6″2.

  33. Genius! I bet Hester has played a ton more Madden on Xbox since the last attempt so he probably understands the game better this time. Good job LOVIE SMITH YOU ROCK

  34. And here I thoght the Bears were going to do something right with Marshall and some other recievers to help the passing game. turns out I was wrong

  35. I think what a lot of fans, even Bears fans, are overlooking is the addition of Brandon Marshall to the mix. Yes, to this point Hester has for the most part failed miserably as a wide receiver. However, during that time he was often counted on as the Bears number one receiver. With Brandon Marshall in the mix Hester immediately becomes a likely number three receiver (behind Marshall and Bennett), and while I don’t think he’s going to set the world on fire, I do feel he can be much more productive at the WR position when he isn’t ‘the guy’ out on the field.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I am willing to give him at least the benefit of the doubt for at least a few games with a legitimate number one receiver to help him out.

  36. I’m fine with Hester returning a kick every season VS the Packers, because he cant catch s**t nor can he even play offense. So go head Bears waste your time and money with this guy because he clearly hasn’t payed off for you. Number of rings again?, enough said.Go out and draft some damn receivers and start the rebuilding process before baby Cutler gets to old.

  37. This pisses me off. The guy is so dangerous on punt returns, has had more impact on the field than almost any Bears player and you change position. Why? Because they don’t want to pay him a boatload of money as a returner. My offseason just turned to SH#t.

  38. I suspect something else may be going on here. Hester is due a $10 million roster bonus this year. I think if he doesn’t restructure his contract, the Bears are going to have a hard time paying him that much to return punts, even if he’s the best there is at it.

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