Chicago Bears wide receiver/return specialist Devin Hester was at one time the most electrifying player in the NFL. He has been focusing on playing the wideout position more and, as a result, he has seen his production in the return game diminish.
Now that Hester seems to have an established role in the slot, what does that mean for the Bears return game and Hester’s production?
Earlier in the offseason, Bears head coach Lovie Smith said that Hester will keep his role as the team’s punt returner, but his job as the kickoff returner may be eliminated all together. Hester commented on his return role to the Chicago Tribune:
“I think every now and then, I’m going to do kickoffs,” Hester said. “It will depend on how the game is going. If I’m involved in the offense the whole first and second quarters, maybe I’ll tell them to cut back on the kickoff returns. If I’m not getting that many touches on offense, of course I’m going to want to get some more touches on kickoff returns. That’s how I see things panning out.”
For the Bears to really get the most out of Hester, they’d be wise to keep him on the field for kickoff returns. In the return game is where Hester is far and away better than any player in the league. When you have a playmaker as dynamic as Hester is during returns, you have to put the ball in his hands.
Would five or less reps in the return game really hurt Hester’s production as a slot receiver? That’s doubtful. Be smart about this, Chicago. Get the ball in Hester’s hands as much as possible.