Entering his seventh season with the Chicago Bears, Devin Hester has already made himself a Hall of Famer in the eyes of many. Hester set the league on fire as a rookie in during the Bears 2006 season, returning two kickoffs, three punts AND a missed field goal for touchdowns. He struggled through a two season drought of no touchdown returns from 2008-2009, only to return to dominant form in the 2010-2011 seasons. So far in his career, Hester has amassed a total of 18 return touchdowns over his career.
As the Bears continue to ask more of Hester on the offensive side of the ball, it is safe to assume we’ll be seeing less of Hester in the return game. While it can be argued that taking Hester away from what he does best could have a negative impact, Bears’ coaches feel that exploiting Hester’s dynamic and explosive abilities in the passing game will greatly benefit the offense. Chicago Tribune’s Vaughn McClure has the latest.
“I think every now and then, I’m going to do kickoffs,” said Hester, who still is expected to handle most punt returns. “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.”
The Bears already have discussed using [Eric] Weems as the primary kickoff returner, particularly with Johnny Knox (spinal fusion surgery) likely out of the mix. Weems has 113 career kickoff returns for 2,896 yards (25.6 yards per return) with a 102-yard touchdown and seven returns of 40-plus yards.
This news doesn’t sit too well with me. Although Hester does have the skills to be a threat in the passing game, the results so far have not been impressive. Hester had only 25 receptions, 299 yards and 1 touchdown as a receiver last season. He will have to greatly improve upon those numbers to justify taking away his touches in the kickoff game.