Chicago Bears: 5 Ways to Utilize Devin Hester in the Bears' Offense
Throughout the May and June minicamps, the Chicago Bears have talked about their new offense. A key component of that offense is the mysterious "Devin Package," a specific group of plays designed for superstar Devin Hester.
It's clear that the Bears are intent on getting Hester the ball in as many different ways as possible. We'll outline some potential options for "The Devin Package," and give you some idea of how Hester can be used in the most effective manner possible this season.
Devin Hester as a Punt and Kick Return Man
It seems foolish to to ignore Devin Hester's greatest contribution to the Chicago Bears: special team return superstar. Hester has averaged almost 13 yards per punt return and 23.6 yards per kick return over his 92-game career He also holds the records for punt return touchdowns (12), kick return touchdowns (five) and punt-return touchdowns in a season (4).
Regardless of how many different ways the Bears want to get Hester involved in the offense, he is still one of the best return men in the game. Taking the ball out of his hands in the return game would be a mistake.
Devin Hester out of the Backfield.
One of the ways that Hester has not been used very much is running the ball out of the backfield. Hester is the most effective when he has the ball in open space, and he can use his speed and agility to make defenders miss. By getting him the ball as quickly as possible, you play to his strengths.
The Minnesota Vikings frequently use Percy Harvin in a similar manner. At least once or twice a game, they bring Harvin in motion, faking a pitch or end-around to him. Then at some point they will get him the ball, hoping to catch the defense napping.
Harvin even lines up behind the quarterback on a few plays just to confuse the defense and give the Vikings some options. The Bears could increase Hester's effectiveness by using him in a similar manner.
Devin Hester as a Flanker
Devin Hester isn't know for his precise route-running skills. But on simple fly and deep crossing routes, Hester's speed and elusiveness make him a dangerous target. The Bears have used Hester both as a decoy and on designed patterns when they need a big play. The biggest problem that they have had is that the offensive line hasn't been able to protect Jay Cutler long enough for Hester to get open deep.
New Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Tice has promised to create more dynamic passing plays designed to move the pocket around and give Cutler more time to throw the ball. By using designed roll-outs and different formations, the offense can give Hester more time to beat his defenders deep.
The challenge will be to prevent Hester from being jammed at the line. By lining him up off of the line of scrimmage and bringing him in motion before the ball is snapped, Chicago can prevent defenses from knocking him off his routes early.
Devin Hester as a Slot Receiver
Hester's speed and explosiveness make him a natural threat in the slot. With newly-acquired Brandon Marshall on the outside drawing the best defenders, Hester could find himself matched up against a linebacker or slower safety.
From the slot, Hester can cut across the middle of the field on a quick slant, where Cutler can hit him quickly once the ball is snapped. With slants and bubble-screens, the Bears can get the ball into Hester's hands quickly, giving him the best opportunity to turn short gains into big plays.
Devin Hester as a Red-Zone Threat
Devin Hester has always been known as a big-play threat for Chicago. However, the new offense could take advantage of his speed and explosiveness to make him a legitimate red-zone threat as well.
The Green Bay Packers have turned passing in the red zone into an art form. One of their most effective techniques is to line up two receivers to one side of the field, and then motion one of them to the other side. By isolating guys like Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings in the flat, they can use their size and ball-handling skills to become red-zone threats.
Hester may not be a guy who can overpower or out jump a defender, but it doesn't mean he can't be effective working one-on-one in the red zone. Hester can explode off of the line, creating space between the defender for the second it would take for Jay Cutler to get him the ball.
By running quick slants or sideline routes, Hester can have the first step on his defender with the ball in the air before the defense even knows that the ball was snapped. Timing is everything in these type of situations, but if Cutler and Hester can get the flow down properly, Devin will become a great red-zone threat for the Bears.