This time, I'm not just going to complain about how the Bears misuse him.
I come bearing solutions (pun totally not intended).
Return Kicks and Punts
First of all, enough of the nonsense that he will improve drastically if only he could focus on just catching the ball. Devin Hester is a great returner—punts or kicks. You could argue that he's the greatest ever. I'd be fine with that.
The reason he is so good at returning kicks and punts is because he is tremendously dangerous when he has the ball in his hands. That's why the Bears have tried to cram the concept of him as a wide receiver down the collective throats of the fanbase and media for years.
If he's so damned dangerous with the ball in his hands, why take it out of them? See, the problem with him as a receiver is he is just not that good. He's not awful anymore, but he's nothing special.
He's not the first tremendous returner to be average at another position. Dante Hall was unreal but, though the Kansas City Chiefs and St Louis Rams tried to make him into one, he wasn't a good receiver.
Desmond Howard owns/owned two big records—longest return in Super Bowl history and most punt return yards in a season. His receiver history....not so impressive.
The best of the bunch is Josh Cribbs and really, that isn't saying much. His receiving numbers have been staggeringly underwhelming.
Let Hester do what he does best and let him return punts and kicks.
The argument against kick return duties is, well they moved the mark up to kick from so there are less opportunities for a big run back.
True. So if you have less chances to run the ball back, why not take advantage of them? Why not use the guy who can return kicks better than anyone?
Take any ten kick returners. Take Hester. Look at all the kickoffs they were on the field for be they returned or touchbacks.
Very few of those returners get the adjustments and attention that Hester gets. Nobody makes a team pay like Hester when they actually kick to him.
Get the best guys who can do the most damage on the field as often as possible.
Nobody returns the ball like Hester. So let him do it.
Get the Ball to Him on Short Routes
Now, as you do want your best set of legs and hands to get a hold of the ball more often than not, Hester should and could continue his receiver duties. However, he doesn't get enough separation on vertical routes or anything where he needs to outrun a defender.
So send him short. Dump passes, screen passes, short crossing routes. If what attracts you to him is the ability to move with the ball in his hands, don't waste him on long bombs that go nowhere—get him the ball quick, in a manner which is easy for him to haul in.
A few good blocks and he could be gone for long gains.
The sooner you get the ball in his hands, the more chaos he can cause running it around.
Speaking of which......
Reverses, Direct Snaps, The Statue of Liberty
Why not use Hester in every way possible? I know, the Bears aren't a gimmicky team. However, a little creativity can go a long way if done right.
You want the ball in his hands, get it in his hands. By any means possible.
If you do it a few times—especially if it works—defenses will have to account for it, which is what makes him special on returns in the first place. Forcing and dictating to the defense what they have to worry about.
Too much is too much—again this isn't an offense that could or should go overboard with them—but a little razzle dazzle would get more out of Hester consistently than any Go route possibly could.
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