NFL Rumors: Bears Would Regret Moving Devin Hester off of Kick Returns

John RozumCorrespondent IApril 9, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears returns a kick against thge Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 27-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Easily the most dangerous return man of his generation, Devin Hester has been selected to four All-Pro teams since his rookie season with the Chicago Bears in 2006.

His first three selections were as both a kick and punt returner—which says a lot considering all the changes to kicks and punts these days. That said, the Bears may be taking Hester off kickoffs which is where he's been almost as dangerous.

According to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, coach Lovie Smith makes it sound possible with some new players:

"We have that versatility now," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We added another good player into the (kick-return) mix in Devin Thomas."

"This offseason, we’re still talking about the roles of different guys," Smith said. "First off, we want to get good players. Then we will put them in their perfect spots a little bit later."

Now the issue becomes the No. 2 receiver after Brandon Marshall. Hester has a few solid years at receiver and is responsible for an average of 513 yards on 38 catches per season since 2007.

His contributions at receivers have been much more than that of Devin Thomas or Eric Weems, but both of those players are actual receivers. Hester played more defense in college than offense, but his athleticism has allowed for a rather smooth transition to the position.

As for the 2012 season, Chicago must keep Hester as the primary double-duty return man as that's his skill set which gives the Bears their distinct advantage. Last season alone Hester accounted for 723 kickoff yards, the second-most in his career.

Offensively is where Chicago needs to utilize Thomas and Weems: as both would be excellent in displaying a four-wide set with Matt Forte or Michael Bush in the backfield.

Hester can occasionally act as a slot receiver but allowing him to focus on returning will enhance the Bears odds at winning the field position battle. Also, both Thomas and Weems didn't match Hester in terms of kickoff return production last season and are nowhere near as established returners.

Hester's speed, ball-carrier vision and ability to setup blocks and explode through lanes is second-to-none in pro football. Right now he's the best and most complete return man in the game: so taking him away from his strengths only hurts Chicago that much more.

In a pass-happy division against teams like Green Bay and Detroit, Chicago has arguably the best advantage with Hester back deep. And utilizing him to the fullest on special teams provides the Bears' offense with the best chance to put up points on any given possession.

Perhaps the most important is after the defense allows a touchdown or field goal. Responding to an opponent's score with another score prevents any shift in momentum. Hester's presence will get the Bears excellent field position at the very least, which only makes life easier to their upgraded offense.

Last season Chicago averaged 22.1 points per game (ranked No. 17), which was just 0.8 tenths higher than Minnesota. The new offense will increase that average but it will turn out to be much, much higher with Hester immediately changing the field position on kickoffs.


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