Dave Toub Thrilled With ST Additions.......
Toub enthusiastic about special teams additions
Coordinator dispels rumors Hester won't be Bears' primary kickoff returner
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 7:36 p.m. CDT, May 12, 2012
Dave Toub is not attempting to reinvent special teams.
The veteran coordinator has had success and has been fortunate to work with some top performers, none more electric than Devin Hester. So, when he sees reports the Bears are pulling Hester off kickoff returns, he chuckles.
"It's pretty simple to me," Toub said. "I just laugh when I hear all these stories out here."
So, what is the plan for the NFL's all-time leader in return touchdowns?
"Hester is our punt returner and he is our No. 1 kickoff returner," Toub said Saturday after rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. "He is still our No. 1 kickoff returner."
Speculation has been Hester would focus on punt returns and the addition of Eric Weems and Devin Thomas in free agency would change the dynamic of kickoff returns.
Thomas is no lock to make a roster that suddenly is competitive at wide receiver, though as a kickoff returner Weems is an option. On kickoffs, he averaged 25.6 yards in three seasons with the Falcons and has one touchdown in 113 career returns. Hester has five kickoff return touchdowns in 146 regular-season returns, including a 98-yarder in a 39-10 victory over the Vikings Oct. 16.
The Bears have shared kickoff return duties in the past with Johnny Knox and Danieal Manning, but Hester always has been in the mix and right now Toub says he's atop the depth chart.
"We can put (Weems and Hester) back there and if they kick away from Devin, they'll kick it to Weems and we'll be in good shape."
Toub is thrilled with how his unit has been bolstered. He badly wanted to retain Pro Bowler Corey Graham, who departed for the Ravens in free agency, but said Weems was the top-ranked wide receiver on his special teams board and Blake Costanzo was the top-ranked linebacker in free agency for his unit.
"We're thrilled to have him," Toub said of Costanzo. "The good thing about Weems is he is a gunner and he is on kickoffs, so he has the coverage ability as well as the return."
Can he cover as well as Graham?
"I'm not ready to say that but he is right up there. He is pretty darn good," Toub said. "Corey was a Pro Bowl player and he made the Pro Bowl because of how he played gunner."
The Bears have been forced to replace top special teams performers like Graham in the past. Brendon Ayanbadejo left after making two Pro Bowls. Former general manager Jerry Angelo cut Tim Shaw in an error in judgment after Shaw had a 30-tackle season.
Regardless, the Bears have continued to play at a top level.
"There are a lot of guys (we've signed and drafted) who have special teams ability," Toub said. "(General manager Phil Emery) considers that strongly. He understands that your fourth, your fifth guy, wide receiver or corner, have to have special teams ability. He gets it done."
Brandon Hardin, the third-round pick from Oregon State, already has impressed Toub. The 6-foot-3, 217-pound safety has a rare size/speed ration.
"There is a guy who really loves special teams," Toub said. "He was a gunner on their special teams, first guy down the field on kickoffs, made a lot of tackles. So we're not going to have to do a lot as far as changing his mindset to play special teams."
Apparently, they're not going to be changing Hester's role right away either.
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