Chicago Sun-Times

Devin Hester isn't going anywhere

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When the Bears signed Pro Bowl special teamer Eric Weems, some speculated that perennial Pro Bowl return specialist Devin Hester could be in trouble.

That's absurd.

The Bears value special teams as much as any other team, and they saw an opportunity to add a player who is versatile. Besides, new general manager Phil Emery knew Weems well, having served as the college scouting director in Atlanta, when the Falcons added him as an undrafted free agent out of Bethune-Cookman.

Weems can be a gunner, he can return punts and kickoffs. He can also serve as a backup slot receiver.

So how will this affect Hester?

In reality, the Bears didn't get as much out of their kickoff return unit as they are accustomed to. Johnny Knox was solid, but Hester mostly handled the role and had modest results. A drop off from what Danieal Manning had done before leaving via free agency.

With Johnny Knox's status still unclear, Weems provides another proven, capable player, who can ease the burden on Hester. The Bears will probably give Hester a chance to get snaps at receiver and -- ever mindful of his snap count -- they'll have him focus on punt returns and perhaps have Weems be the primary kickoff returner.

Weems didn't excel last season, but he averaged 27 1/2 yards per kickoff in 2010, when he also returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. That season, he had five returns of 40 or more yards.

There was a mix-up last week, because of a escalator Hester had in his contract. But that $10 million escalator was only triggered IF he reached certain marks as a receiver. He obviously did not.

Hester was brilliant for most of last season, but he staggered to the finish because of a few injuries. There's no reason to think he won't be a difference maker in 2012, which is why Hester will remain in a Bears jersey.

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I really think we are taking a step back if we are planning on Weems being a gunner in place of Corey Graham. He is smaller, less physical, but on the positive side, he offers more upside as a returner. Solid special teams player, but just another guy as far as a wide receiver, and we already have lots of them on the roster.

The Bears really made a poor decision moving Hester to WR instead of leaving him at CB (and Hester seriously overestimated his ability as a wideout in the contract design). He could have been their nickel corner for the last several years, and we would not have had the disaster that he has been as a wide receiver. He is pedestrian at best as a wideout, where with his physical abilities, he would kill Wes Welker's numbers in the slot if he had the capability of reading defenses and doing route/sight adjustments at full speed. But as a nickel corner, his reaction times and athleticism would have been maximized, as he would spend a lot of time reading the QB and reacting to the breaks of his man in coverage. We could have created a package for him as a wideout, where he would have 3-5 plays a game, to take the top off the defense, or at least threaten it to get the ball in his hands more, and he could still be the primary return man.

But now, since he has missed all of his escalators, its not so bad since he doesn't cost a lot. We are paying him very well to be a return man, and a deep threat on occasion on offense. But it is a far cry from the "Devin Hester can be a #1 receiver," which we heard from Lovie on a number of occasions. Obviously, like most of his personnel predictions, he was very, very wrong. Mark Anderson can be an every down DE, Zach Bowman can be a very good starting CB, Craig Steltz can be a starter at FS, J'Marcus Webb can be a franchise LT, we feel good about Caleb Hanie as our backup QB, Frank Omiyale is capable of starting and playing well at a number of positions on the line, and the list goes on and on....

Eric Weems was brought in because Johnny Knox's status is unclear, and yeah to help out on kick-off returns. Chicago needs to make Devin Hester their slot receiver and let him concentrate on returning punts. My hope is Hester will be in the slot, and Earl Bennet will be the flanker, opposite to our new split end Brandon Marshall. Before Marshall, Bennett was the teams best receiver, but wasn't the prototype at receiver for Mike Martz's scheme. Now enter Tice, Bennett should get the starting nod. What excites me is the rapport Jay Cutler has with both Bennet and Marshall, this should make for a heck of a passing game.

I still think Chicago needs another receiver, I doubt they'll use a 1st rounder on the position now, but, the Bears did visit with Baylor receiver Kendall Wright the other day, so nothing would surprise me. I just think the team has bigger needs like at both defensive end and offensive tackle. I look for the Bears to use their first rounder on Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus, and maybe a 2nd rounder on an offensive tackle, I like someone like California tackle Mitchell Schwartz. But, Chicago only has one true split end on the roster in Brandon Marshall, and he's looking at suspension. So the team needs another X. Maybe in the 4th-5th round take someone like Texas A&M' receiver Jeff Fuller, who at 6-4 225lbs, has the size and hands to help Chicago outside at split end and will add nice depth behind Marshall, just an opinion now GO BEARS!!

I like the way you are thinking, but don't be too sure on Fuller's hands. They were suspect at best down the stretch this year, and if he can't get himself righted, he could find himself on the outside of the draft. I like a guy like Marvin Jones, or in a late round, Jordan White. Neither of them are burners, but they both run decent routes, are bigger guys who can play the X, and have outstanding hands to catch away from their frame. Hester should be excellent in the slot, but they had not used him there correctly in martz's offense, potentially because of his inability to read and adjust his routes on the fly. Maybe Tice's offense will be simpler for him to work in, and they can take advantage of his speed and quickness.

I would actually be more interested in getting an OT in round 1, the DE in 2, especially if Martin slips to 19. But I don't expect him to be there. I don't like Mike Adams at all, and there is a long track record of failures of Ohio State OTs to look at that makes me even more uneasy. If Martin is gone, I would go DE or interior line (I still like Peter Konz as an anchor for the next 10 years, and Tice loves the Wisconsin kids after watching his son there. Zeitler is an option as well in the mid rounds), and look for a tackle in 2 or 3.

We still need at least one CB, preferably one that can match up with bigger receivers, since Tim Jennings makes Smurfs look tall...I think Lovie is sold on the smaller school guys (Norman, Trumaine Johnson, etc.) to try and find another Tillman in the mid rounds.
Emery is making a believer out of me, and it is obvious that Lovie is not calling the shots. Offense is the order of the day, and Lovie doesn't think he needs one. Let's hope they carry this momentum through the draft.

Why force Hester into the slot? He has proven that he won't be a serviceable WR. Have him focus on returns and not trying to learn the WR position, which after four years he has shown he can't learn.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on March 21, 2012 10:13 PM.

GM Phil Emery: Negotiations with Matt Forte ''ongoing'' was the previous entry in this blog.

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