When the Chicago Bears acquired Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery this offseason, the thought was that Devin Hester would blossom in a reduce role. General Manager Phil Emery and offensive coordinator Mike Tice presented media with the “Hester package”; a variety of plays that would play to Hester’s strengths.
To properly use Hester, you have to identify his strengths and weaknesses as a wide receiver. His strength consists of being quick getting in-and-out of his breaks. Believe it or not, Hester is a decent route runner and probably rivals Marshall as the best WR capable of creating separation.
The weakness however is his awareness on the field. Hester could get open, but lacks the awareness to cross in front of the defender’s face, come back to the football, and not round off his routes.
Those flaws pretty much overshadow Hester separation ability, because in the end, those mistakes allow the defender back into the play. This season, Hester’s biggest plays have been downfield. Both plays against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys have come off double moves, where Hester created separation and completed the play.
While those plays stand out, throughout his career, Hester’s strength hasn’t been downfield. He has a hard time locating the ball when sent downfield. Hester’s skills shine best in the screen game and on short-to-intermediate passes. There’s opportunity for Hester to create a big play if given the football in space. Not saying Hester should not be sent deep, but he should mostly be used in the intermediate parts of the field.
When you factor all of this in, it’s crystal clear the Bears coaching staff have misused Hester as a WR. Right now, Hester is being used at the flanker position; his skill set however insists that he’s ideal in the slot.
This is not saying Hester should take Earl Bennett’s spot as the team’s full-time slot receiver, but this is where he should be mostly used at if you want some significant production from him at the WR position.
They have a WR in Bennett who’s not a liability flanked on the outside. Tice can use Hester in the slot for an opportunity at a big play or take pressure off Jay Cutler by not being in third-and-long.
When Jeffery comes back, Hester’s role will most likely be reduced again, but he can still have an impact on the offense if the coaches put him in the right position to succeed.