Chicago Sun-Times

Deion: Hester can be the best of both worlds

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TAMPA--When evaluating the season Devin Hester had, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said expectations needed to be reshaped. Hester's record-setting first two seasons had to be put in perspective with him working as a full-time receiver because, as Angelo pointed out, never has an elite returner doubled as a No. 1 wide receiver.

Deion Sanders is here to say it can be done and Hester is the man to do it.

"He could do it,'' Sanders said in between Super Bowl XLIIII media day sessions Tuesday morning at Raymond James Stadium. ``You get the right personnel to block for him, sure he can. When I returned punts it wasn't that I was so great, it was the 10 guys in front of me were great and they were blocking their butts off. That's what made me who I was as a returner. That's the same as Devin in his previous years.''

Sanders targeted the players Hester had with him on special teams, a group coordinator Dave Toub was forced to remold this past season. Hester lost his kick returning job in mid-November at Green Bay and averaged just 21.9 yards on kickoff returns before yielding to Danieal Manning, who wound up leading the league. Hester remained on punts and never found his groove, finishing with an average of 6.2 yards and a long of 25, the kind of production the Bears used to get from Leon Johnson. Even with a return game that wasn't what it was from 2006-2007 when the Bears were No. 1 in the league in special teams, Toub's personnel was still good enough to rank eighth this past season.

"There's never been a No. 1 receiver and a No. 1 kick returner,'' Angelo said after the season. "If there's never been one, there's probably a reason for that. So I anticipated the potential of Devin's returns to fall off given the fact that we were going to escalate his play time at receiver. We wanted to escalate his play time and that's the course we chose to go down. His returns did suffer. Now, is that to say that's the absolute reason why? I don't know that. Teams got better with their coverages, being there was more of a sense of urgency. I'm sure they did a lot more studying and how to cover with Devin. There are probably other things there too.

"He wasn't the returner he was in the last couple years. We're going to look at that real hard too and make sure we continue to define what his role is because the one thing that we know about Devin and he showed it at receiver is that he's a playmaker, and when you get a playmaker, you want to make sure you get him the ball the best way you can to make as many plays as he can on Sunday."

Toub has said Manning will remain in the role of kickoff returner but the Bears could take some time away from Hester at receiver next season in order to jump-start his game on special teams. Sanders is convinced it's more a function of those around him.

"They had good [special teams personnel] the year they went to the Super Bowl,'' Sanders said. "It wasn't the same caliber. Devin has always said it wasn't him, it was the blocking in front of him and he made some great reads. That wasn't the case this season. I don't think he had the same personnel. Not to say he made all the right decisions, but he did make some good decisions. The personnel had a lot to do with it."

As far as his development as a receiver, all parties seemed pleased with the strides Hester made in the final six weeks or so of the season. He finished with 51 catches for 665 yards (13.0 average) and three touchdowns.

"I think he did great,'' said Sanders, who is still a close mentor to Hester. "Devin is the kind of kid, when he received the new contract he placed pressure on himself to perform. A lot of people think they get a new deal and they can chill. Devin is the direct opposite, `I got a new deal and I want to prove that I am worthy of this deal. I want to prove that I am one of the best in the game.' That's why he was frustrated."

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21 Comments

Anyone else sick of Neon Deion being Hester's official spokesperson???

With all due respect to Neon Deion, stick to commentating on NFL Network and your "Prime Time" show, and stop cheerleading for a person that we know posesses what skills. Everytime I watch this guy brown-nosing Hester it make me question his love for the guy. I wish Sanders' love for Hester could spread throughout the rest of the Bears team. Share the love Neon.

Danieal Manning led the league after he took over for Devin with the same blockers. Deion's argument would make sense only if the player that replaced Hester didn't excel. Sorry, but Devin has only himself to blame for not getting the same returns as the previous two years. His buddy Deion oought to hold up a mirror to him instead of deflecting the blame.

I totally disagree with Deion Sanders on putting the blame for Hesters drop-off in the return game on the blocking. If the blocking was that bad, how did Danieal Manning come in and lead the league in kickoff returns, 36 for 1070yds, a 29.7 avg, and 1td, with the same guys blocking for him as Hester?? Is Manning that much better than Hester in that he doesn't need great blocking, I don't think so. I think the fact Hester was on the field more as a starting receiver this season is more to blame for Hesters drop-off as a returnman than the blocking. Even special teams coach Dave Toub must realize this, especially when he said, "the Bears could take some time away from Hester at receiver in order to jump start his game on special teams." You can't expect a player to return kicks, punts, and run up and down the field as a starting receiver. You can ask a guy to return kicks, and play nickle, also, return punts and play receiver, remember, these guys are only humans not cyborgs.

If Chicago wants the old Devin Hester back on special teams, they need to make him a third receiver, not a starter, and I don't see that happening. Chicago has to much invested in Hester as a receiver [as far as time] to make him just a #3 receiver. If second year receiver Earl Bennett comes on next season, Bennett is listed behind Hester on the depth chart, this would help in cutting back on Hesters time on the field as a receiver, and would help his game on special teams. GO BEARS!!

When and only when we get a legit #1 receiver will Hester be able to succeed as a receiver. He is being targeted more on offense which is great, but that also means defenses are keying in on him the whole game. When we get a receiver that can take pressure off of him then he will DOMINATE and show the world the playmaker that he is.
Also, THE WINDY CITY FLYER will revert back to form on punt returns. He had a bad year last season but nobody can do what he did the first 2 years forever. Remember how sweet it was to watch?

GO BEARS.

If Deion doesn't get Tool of the Week, I'll quit listening to the radio. Don't forget that he's the reason that Hester held out at the beginning of training camp last year. This guy is more embarassing than a father screaming at the coach because he thinks his kid needs more playing time. Go away already, Primetime.

By Ish on January 27, 2009 12:41 PM

With all due respect to Neon Deion, stick to commentating on NFL Network and your "Prime Time" show, and stop cheerleading for a person that we know posesses what skills.

Even better, stop commentating all together. Just go away! Take Sapp with you.

If it's all the blockings fault why did Danieal Manning have a great year returning kicks?!!!!!!!!!! Hester was running scared, he was catching the ball then trying to run away from would be tacklers half the time going backwards. I would say 80% had to do with Hester. We are definitly missing Brendon Ayanbendejo, missing a big piece of MOJO and why trying to save $1200000 a year please take that money from Tommy Harris and the Bears would be better off.

Kevin, it's total BS Sanders just wants people to put a spotlight on him for any amount of time. Taub is the man and the blocking was fine. Maybe he should remind Hester too run forward not to the sidelines.

Angelo has said it and there is a reason for it. There has never been a guy who has been great at both. In fact everytime they try to make great return men into recievers they always wind up ruining the guy.

Brendon Ayanbendejo who knows both Hester and Taub really well said the same thing. There asking to much and said it would be better for Hester to return full time as a returner. His production was as good as any reciever in the NFL as a return man. Plus he gave you the best field position in the game. Again putting down special teams in favor of the offense. He gave the Bears 8 TD's in 2007, he gave them 3 last year. You know the old saying, "don't mess with a good thing" ooops to late.

Many of you should read Deion's book, he is a devout christian,
Actually what he said was that Hester COULD do it, I agree with you guys that he did not do it though, and it was not the blocking, as anyone could tell by just looking at him, he looked like a deer in the headlights, not sure why. But I do agree that he could do it. Hey, we could become President, this is America! :)lol
Brendon Ayanbendejo, is what we are missing too.

Hester has what 1.5 years as a WR? Most of our WR have there entire career at WR and did not do squat. Give him time and a good armed QB and he will be fine. Remember he would have at least 3 more TD's as a WR if our QB's hadn't missed him - Rex missed at least one and Orton missed at least 2.
Lovie is moving Hester to WR, may as well get used to it, and at least it's something to get excited about.

Come on Deion we're not idiots. We watch the game. Hester was not the return man he once was. Why did Manning do so well? Bad blocking? Hester is an average receiver at best and will never be a top receiver in the NFL unless his facemask has fingers on it. I wish they would have traded him before the draft last year. He had value back then. Mark Bradley is better than Hester. Hey, maybe he's a great return man too. Only if he had the blocking. Angelo should package Urlacher, Tommy Harris and Hester for trade bait. I'd take draft picks and start over.

By Anonymous:

Remember he would have at least 3 more TD's as a WR if our QB's hadn't missed him - Rex missed at least one and Orton missed at least 2.
Lovie is moving Hester to WR, may as well get used to it, and at least it's something to get excited about.

You must have only watched part of three games, he got missed more than. But to be fare he dropped his share of passes, plus who's to say he was running the right rout at the time or in the right place, lot of throws are made blind, and are done on timing.

As for getting excited, I used to get real excited everytime he returned a punt or kick. Not so much anymore. As reciever he isn't really exciting.

The world is 3/4 water and Lovie is trying to teach a fish how to walk when he can swim just fine.

Didn't the "Human Joystick" drop off the face of the earth when he demanded more playing time at WR in KC? Seems like your instincts just go South when trying to juggle both .

Anonymous: "Many of you should read Deion's book, he is a devout christian"

So are Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps each of which I could care less about their opinion. In my personal experience, it seems like those who are the most devout Christian (laymen not *most* clergy) are the ones most who display the most hypocrisy and douchebaggery but I digress.

I agree with you though on Hester, he's learning and I saw significant improvement from week 1 to week 17. It's too bad his return game had to suffer but hopefully he was just overthinking things and another year under his belt and he can get back to his instinctual style of returning.

I think Orton will be fine if he can find the deep touch he lost. To be honest, I watched several balls go over the head of the receiver and a few more be underthrown. It reminded me of my pitching days and throwing the slider ... too hard and it tails too far out too quickly, too soft and it doesn't move at all and usually winds up in the bleachers down the power ally (ala Mayday Malone and the Slider of Death). Orton just couldn't time it right and overcompensated and undercompensated; I'm hoping a consecutive year under center and he'll find the balance.

Yes, some were overthrown, so a weak arm isn't really the problem with Orton, I feel it's touch as well.
Hopefully Hester and Orton can get alot of practice in and fix that. as I feel it's going to be Orton/Hester next year.
Deion is standing up for a fellow return man, you know Hester respects that, just as any of us would stand up for our buddy at work. But I don't know, Hester looked bad returning.

I think it is very cool that Deion Sanders is supporting a younger player and is a fan. It certainly makes it harder for Deion critics to continue to suggest that Sanders is all about his personal ego. I am not even a big fan of Sanders and his "style" but I like to see former superstars support the new guys.

There are plenty of former players who refuse to give props to younger guys because their egos can't handle it. Sanders is showing class all the way.

There were stretches where Hester looked Steve Smith-ian near the end of the season. At times, he looked like the only Bears receiver who could get open. He is starting to use his quickness to find/make openings in coverage. Speed is important in a deep threat, but for a top all purpose receiver, it is quickness that creates an opening in coverage for a reception. I'll take quickness and savvy over pure speed any day in a receiver.

Hester may end up being almost as good a receiver as he was a return guy. I was a skeptic at first, but I saw some good signs this season. We shall see.

What about a new receiver's coach or a receivers consultant to help the Bears figure out if they have talent that is undeveloped or whether our guys suck? There are receivers we cut who are starting and producing in the league, so either our talent eval at that position is poor, or there is something about our coaching/offensive system that is making zeros out of our wide outs.

Scott, I agree with you on Devin Hester, I also think he will continue to get better as a receiver. Hester got better as the season progressed, ending the season with 51 catches, pretty good for a guy who has only been at the position for two seasons.

As for Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake, I think he has done a pretty good job with the players Jerry Angelo has given him to work with. If you think about it, Drake has had his work cut out for him for the last 6 seasons he has been the Bears receivers coach. Drake has had to develop two corners into receivers, Hester & Davis, and has never been given a 1st round draft pick to work with, and the one first day draft pick he was given, Mark Bradley 2nd round 2004, didn't have a lot of experience in college at receiver coming into the pros. Bradley was a JUCO transfer to Oklahoma, Oklahoma then had to decide to make him a corner or reciver before putting him at receiver full time as a junior, again, thats not a lot of college experience to make the jump to the next level.

Jerry Angelo brought in Earl Bennett last april, and Im curious to see him play in his second season, I think Bennett is gonna be pretty good. At Vanderbilt, Bennett displayed the ability to separate vs SEC corners, Bennett caught 70 plus balls for three straight seasons at Vanderbilt, and is the SEC's all time leader in receptions. Hopefully Drake will have Bennett ready this season, if Bennett can seperate in the pros like he did in college, he is gonna be special. Bennett, unlike Hester, Bradley, and Rashied Davis, has three full seasons at receiver coming into the pros. Drafting in Bennett was a step in the right direction for Angelo, enough with trying to convert corners into receiver, and drafting in players who can run fast in gym shorts, but don't have a lot of experience at the receiver position.

If Chicago is gonna draft another receiver early, I'd like to see them bring in North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks 6-1 210lbs. Scouts love Hakeem for his strength and his hands. A good example of Nicks strength was seen in the Meineke Bowl vs West Virginia. Nicks dragged a West Virginia defender 12 yards into the end zone to complete a 73-yard touchdown play. A good example of his hands is the 1222 yds receiving he had as a junior, and Nicks can only run a 4.5 40. This shows me Nicks is a strong receiver that has the ability to seperate. Nicks 40 time might allow him to slip into the second round, Chicago should nab him up. Again, Nicks might not wow the scouts on the track with his 40 time, but on the field Nicks has shown time and time again he is the real deal. With Nicks size 6-1 210lbs, his great hands, strength, and ability to seperate, he might be something special that teams ignore because of his 40 time GO BEARS!!

Speaking of receivers...has any one seen any tape on this Hakeem Nicks guy? This guy is freaking outstanding! Do yourself a favor and google his name and watch some game tapes of this guy. I'd venture to say besides Crabtree, he's got the best hands of this Years crop of receivers. Maybe the last two drafts worth. I honestly believe that Crabtree will be gone within the first 2 or 3 picks, but Nicks will be there at 18. The Bears have 8 maybe 9 picks in the Draft this year, one in each of the rounds including two in the third round and a possible compensatory pick. Call me crazy, but I think this would be a good draft for the Bears if the drafted like this:

1. Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina

Nicks gives you a younger, just as physical version of Anquan Boldin, at less of a cost. With his combination of size, speed, excellent hands and knowledge of the game, the Bears would have a definite no. 1 receiver to complement Earl Bennett and Devin Hester and a 3rd. Going this route would allow Hester to concentrate more on special teams, where I believe he poses more of a threat while still being able to add the Steve Breaston-like dynamic to a passing offense. While others would get Sanchez from USC (if he's still around), I disagree. He may have the strongest arm in the draft, I worry that 1) He may be a fluke because he only had one good year in college, thus not giving him any stats to back up his what his outstanding year at USC boasts and 2) his long, readable delivery. I believe that he will be a developmental QB and if the Bears are seeking that route, they might as well just wait another year. Next year the QB Draft class will be much better with the likes of Tebow, Bradford, Locker, McCoy, and LeFevour in the mix. It's best that they grab a cheap free agent such as a Chris Simms and further develop Hanie into a starter. Next year both the QB and the safety positions can be addressed with the bustling QB and S class looking promising.

2. Devin Moore, RB, Wyoming

This guys got some serious wheels. He runs a 4.38 in college and it's not even time for the NFL combine. Chris Johnson ran a 4.24 at the NFL combine. This guys got the motor to get at least 4.3 flat in the combine. If the Bears were to combine Forte's raw instinct, talent, durability and willingness to pound out tough yards with Moore's blazing speed and pass catching ability their offense would suddenly be very dangerous.

Now I know what you're thinking...what about the defense? Given that we plan on sticking with the Tampa-2, a guy like Tyson Jackson may end up being a waste. The key to the Tampa-2 is the presence of the front four man rush. The idea is to limit the amount of time that a QB has to make reads and find receivers. Thus, you must have a dominant pass rush, which can be formed without wasting picks on a DE or DT. I believe the Bears Defensive line is really not that far off from one like...let's say....Tennessee. IF the play to their potential. I think the addition of a free agent defensive end wishing to reinvent himself, like Julius Peppers would make that d-line dangerous again. Thus is the beauty of the plan. When you get Nicks you get an Boldin prototype without shelling a ridiculous amount of cash to get him. With the cash you saved, you can afford to scoop up Peppers an possibly a young tackle to be the understudy of John Tait or a free safety to replace Mike Brown. Now you have a d-line feat. Peppers, Harris, Anderson, Brown all coached by one of the best d-line coaches in the NFL, Rod Marinelli. Oh, and by the way we should cut Desmond Clark. In all respect to him, Kellen Davis is bigger, faster, younger and cheaper. Might as well use some of Clark's money for something we need like a FA QB or a corner back.

3. Asher Allen, CB, Georgia or Captain Munnerlyn, CB, South Carolina

I'm assuming they are still around in the early parts of the third round. At 5'10 and 5'9 respectively, they posses the skills to be great tackling cover corners. I say this for Munnerlyn especially because with 4.3 speed and good vertical jumping ability he can afford to get beat and still make up ground, which is necessary if the d-line doesn't get the pressure the QB. Remember, Natahn Vasher is also listed at 5'9. The difference is that both of these guys have longer strides than Vasher and can tackle. Munnerlyn can also be used as a punt/kick returner as he has done this often in his career with the Gamecocks.

4. Eric Wood, C, Louisville

We as Bear fans must realize that our love affair with Olin Kreutz is nearing its end. Eric Wood, who has the same hard-nosed mentality would be the perfect student for Kreutz. Wood is durable, tough and more than willing to get out and lay a hat on someone to spring his back. Wood also has the ability and experience of playing tackle AND guard. Sounds like a triple threat to me.

5.Domonique Johnson, CB, Jackson St.

This guy would be an absolute gem for the Bears. Compared to Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie in build and ability, he gives his owner a couple of decisions. At 6'2 190 with a 4.35 40 he has the ability to be a shut down corner. His knock is that he is long-legged and struggles to mirror receivers and his ball skills are not as advanced as Cromartie's were when he was drafted. That weakness gives his owner the chance to shift him to free safety, providing that they need one. Enter the Chicago Bears. These last two defensive pics allow the Bears to leave Hester as a third receiver and kick/punt returner, leave Tillman at CB and Manning at nickelall while developing Munnerlyn or Allen. You just move Johnson into the free and keep Payne at the Strong and we have a much improved secondary coached by a much better defensive backs coach in John Hoke.

6.Chase Daniel, QB, Missouri

I like this kid. He's scrappy, tough as nails and extremely intelligent. He can move around the pocket, throws well on the run and makes good decisions when pressured. The biggest knock on him is that he didn't perform well at the senior bowl or its practices and he a smaller QB. Firstly, the bad senior bowl notwithstanding, a year before he was in the Heisman Trophy race. The bad senior bowl appearance could play to the Bears favor. Secondly, everybody thought that Drew Brees was TOO SMALL, didn't they? I bet you dollars to donuts that they, including San Diego, are eating their words as we speak.

7th and 8th.

I bled these together because from here on out, the Bears can use these picks to establish depth in the offensive and defensive line. Quality ends and tackles can be found this deep into the draft and it would be a mistake to shirk the even though most of the questioned postitions have been filled in earlier rounds.

I as a loyal bears fan believe with these changes the Bears have a chance to go deep into the playoffs if not the Super Bowl. Most of the defensive players have the physical nature and speed to rebound in the case of any failure of the scheme and those on offense have the ability to make Kyle Orton better. With a dominant receiving corps, his reliance on Greg Olsen will lessen, making him more of a threat. The addition of a secondary fast back threat gives the Chicago offense a thunder/lightning combo. The addition of a big play possession receiver gives Orton a cushion as well as making defenses play honest against the run, leading to more yards per carry by our running backs. I mean, if Forte ran for over 1000 yards with the defenses keying on only him, imagine what he could do with some breathing room.

Good stuff Corporal!! don't agree with it all but good stuff.

Hester will return to as good as gold in punt return duty next year.

Yeop good stuff, especially for someone like me that doesn't keep up with College ball, - Really liked your analysis Corporal.
I would take a Offensive Lineman earlier though as the Bears have taken some in the later rounds and I don't see them lasting, Beekman came in the 4th and he is coming along nicely.
This from the Millwaukee Herald
last year before Williams was drafted:

`But GM Jerry Angelo has shown little desire to address that area in his six seasons of running the Bears' draft. Not once in the last five years has Angelo selected an offensive linemen in the first three rounds, and he's taken just one in the first four rounds since 2003 -- Boston College guard Josh Beekman last year'
And it is really catching up to us now. With the Free agents he picked up we didn't really need to draft Oline but now those guys are getting along in years, and believe it or not JA is talking like going Free Agent for Oline again. (yeah!)- If he does then we can get Oline later in the draft and take the time to develope them.
I like the fact your addressing CB - to me thats a priority on any championship Defense.

Daniel Manning DID NOT have the same blockers that Hester did. The Bears finally (and way too late) added Idonije and some others late into the season. Starting the season Hester had a bunch of skinny tall guys "blocking" for him. He had no wedge. He had no chance and the coaches looked the other way and then blamed Hester for "losing his confidence". They say Taub is a great coach. Then why did this happen? Because great coach Lovie wanted it this way and Taub backed down. Also many in the NFL (including Dick Butkis) criticize the fact that Hester was taken off kick return. The correct move is to provide Hester with the best blockers they can get and realize they had something special going that was never seen before in the NFL. Now we have a "OK" receiver who gets interference calls and gets to watch Orton struggle to throw the ball 60 yards.

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