There’s been a lot of speculation lately about Devin Hester’s future as a Chicago Bear. Between the Bears’ acquisitions on special teams to Brandon Marshall, from his lofty cap hit to the new kickoff rules, a lot of people have been questioning how the “Ridiculous One” fits into the Bears’ big picture. Vaughn McClure wrote about Hester getting relieved of his kick return duties, which only added fuel to the fire.
When I was first kicking this around in my head, I was going to write about how it might make the most sense for the Bears to trade Hester, but I’ve reconsidered. Why? I read Matt Bowen’s terrific piece from the National Football Post that I am printing and faxing to Halas Hall to the attention of Bears new offensive coordinator Mike Tice as mandatory reading.
Bowen, a former safety in the league, knows the X’s and O’s and presents
…if you want to see Hester produce in the passing game, then let him run the short to intermediate route tree inside of the numbers.
Here’s what you will see from Hester in a practice setting (or during individual period in camp): speed off the release, a burst out of his cuts and dynamic lateral ability in one-on-one sessions. He looks the part of a player you don’t want to match up with in the open field.
How did the offensive genius known as Mike Martz not harness these tools into offensive firepower? Because non-genius former GM Jerry Angelo didn’t give him any other weapons, so Hester was forced to play on the outside and there was no other player to command safety help and draw attention away from Hester.
But that hasn’t translated to true production when he is aligned outside of the numbers. CBs can get their hands on Hester, ride him into the boundary and force him to widen his release.
An occasional deep ball (think fade or post), but not enough to make opposing defensive coordinators worry when they turn on the tape.
Here’s the mandatory reading for new offensive coordinator Mike Tice:
Fix that. That should be the goal of new offensive coordinator Mike Tice. Move Hester in his pre-snap alignment, use motion, bunch or stack looks and target him inside of the numbers—where he can use that lateral movement to win matchups.
Talk to any DB in the NFL [like Bowen used to be] and they will tell you that playing the nickel (or dime) role in sub packages is tough. It allows the WR a “two-way go” (inside or outside release) and the ability to play off your leverage on a basic option route.
Bottom line is that Hester is under contract through 2013. His cap figure of over $7.6 million ranks 6th on the Bears and includes a $5 million roster bonus. Let’s face it, he’s not worth that amount right now, with new kickoff rules that aren’t going away any time soon. It’s time for the Bears to find a way to maximize his value and the addition of Brandon Marshall combined with a new way to use Hester could be just the right combination to make the Bears offense doubly explosive. Who cares about starting field position if you can move the ball at will, right?
If the Bears can’t make it work with Hester this year, it’s likely that he’ll be gone after this upcoming season. In 2013, he’s due $10 million in roster bonus money. (A portion of that is believed to be based on meeting certain targets as a wide receiver, but it’s unclear how much.) If he can’t get it done as a wide receiver alongside an elite threat like Brandon Marshall, it’s time to call it quits on the Devin Hester Wide Receiver Experiment.