Based on his past performances, Devin Hester would have about three return touchdowns by this point in the season.
He entered the year averaging a score every 13.8 returns and has yet to have one with 33 returns (20 kickoff, 13 punt) this season, fueling speculation for weeks that he is in a slump. His mentor Deion Sanders said the slump is on the special teams unit, though, not the return man.
"You should be worried about the 10 guys is blocking for Devin Hester," Sanders said Thursday in a visit with Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman on ESPN-1000. "That should be your concern. Devin, I think he's been doing well as a receiver. You really need to give him the ball a little more. I think he had his breakout game against the Atlanta Falcons. He looked great and he just needs more opportunities. As far as the return game, I think you're looking at different faces on the return unit that's normally blocking for him because Devin hadn't forgotten how to run, how to maneuver at all.''
Sanders was asked if the Bears are giving Hester too much to do. The plan coming into the season was for him to get five or more touches per game on offense and that has not materialized. While he's second among wide receivers on the team with 22 catches, he's had just 24 touches (2 rushes) in his seven games or 3.4 per game.
"Not whatsoever,'' Sanders said. "Because normally after a return you pretty much get a commercial break. Normally, there is a pause when the change of units come back on the field so your getting a chance to relax a bit until you go onto your regular unit, offensively or defensively. I think Devin just needs his touches, you need to figure out a way to really get him the ball but As far as his return production that is not totally based on Devin's inadequacy that's based on the 10 guys blocking for him. You can only be as good as those 10 guys in front of you.''
So, he's not being tentative in his approach?
"See, I study film man,'' Sanders said. "You gotta go back and look at the film and then look at holes that he has to hit. Devin can still make one or two or three guys miss but you gotta understand those initial guys is a whole different return unit and they are not given the freedom to make decisions. His decisions are being forced too early, too prematurely. Therefore, he is running into crowds.''