Lovie Smith says Bears need to "find more way
Lovie Smith says Bears need to "find more ways" to get Devin Hester the ball
By Sean Jensen on March 30, 2011 9:04 AM
Bears receiver Devin Hester regained his mojo as a return specialist last offseason.
But Hester's production as a receiver took a big step backward.
After making improvements in three consecutive seasons, Hester's receiving yardage dropped by 282 from 2009 to 2010. Hester, who had 475 receiving yards, also had 17 fewer catches.
"He didn't get into the mix as much as he probably would have liked. I liked what he was able to do in the return game. I just think it's hard sometimes balancing the both of them," Smith said. "I just know he's a dangerous guy with his hands on the ball. It's up to us to try to find more ways to give him the football."
Asked if he'd like Hester to play fewer offensive snaps, Smith said, "You know, the snap part, I would like to see us find a way to get him the ball more maybe in certain situations.
The goal, Smith said, would to take "away some of his reps and be able to get him involved more on the ones he's out there."
Hester was the primary punt returner last season, but Danieal Manning was the primary kickoff returner. With Manning not under contract, the Bears may have to consider other options. One would be to call upon Johnny Knox, who was a Pro Bowl kick returner as a rookie in 2009. But the team may not be inclined to ask him to handle that on a full-time basis.
With the new kickoff rule -- which means more touchbacks -- perhaps the Bears could consider splitting that duty between Hester and Knox. The latter averaged 29 yards per kickoff in 2009, while Hester averaged 35.6 on 12 returns in 2010.