Through six games of the 2013 season, Chicago Bears returner Devin Hester possesses the lowest punt return average (5.0 yard average) in his eight-year NFL career and has fumbled twice. He hasn’t scored in more than two years, and appears indecisive in fielding both punts and kickoffs.
Other than his 245-yard kick return performance against Minnesota in the second contest of the year, Hester has failed to evoke memories of a highlight-reel past. Whether age has began to rob him of some explosiveness or the lack of blocking and special-teams continuity has eroded his confidence, Hester doesn’t look like the same player who regularly terrorized NFL special teams coaches with his abilities.
His decision-making is highly questionable, a likely result of pressing trying to make something big happen. Nevertheless, it has often put the Bears in poor field position. Perhaps frustrated by the new NFL kickoff rules that make touchbacks a mere formality, Hester isn’t shy about bringing a kick out from deep in the end zone. While a noble idea, he often fails to advance the ball to the 20-yard line.
The Bears pulled Hester from any offensive snaps this year, hoping to keep him fresh and focused on just returning kicks. What they may have failed to realize is that returners are similar to shooting stars, in that they both experience meteroic rises followed by equally quick falls. Hester has bucked that trend, but may soon be facing his NFL mortality.
If ever a game screamed turnaround, it’s the upcoming contest at Washington. The Redskins gave up two long returns, including an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown to Dallas third-year man Dwayne Harris Sunday night. The Redskins also lost two key contributors from that subpar unit in Nick Sundberg and Bryan Keh, who both suffered season-ending knee injuries.
However, hoping for much from the Bears return game may be asking for more than it can deliver…at least this season.
Bear Tracks: DT Stephen Paea jogged lightly as the Bears went through a workout. Paea hopes to play Sunday. “I did a little running today, see how it feels,” Paea said. “So we’re shooting for Sunday, but we’ll see.”…..CB Charles Tillman TE Martellus Bennett, and LB James Anderson were held out during the portion of practiced open to the media….QB Jay Cutler is bullish on the Bears offense. “For the 1st time since I’ve been here, I really like the direction we’re going offensively right now.” …The Bears added DE Tracy Robertson to the practice squad. The oft-traveled Robertson entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans in 2012 out of Baylor. He has spent time with Houston, Detroit, New England and Miami, but has not appeared in a regular season contest. At Baylor, Robertson appeared in 44 games with 27 starts recording 67 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 14 tackles for losses.