Will Devin Hester Even Make the Chicago Bears Roster in 2013?

By Brian Neal
Devin Hester Chicago Bears
David Banks – USA TODAY Sports

Once known as the “Windy City Flyer,” Devin Hester has taken a few steps back from meriting that moniker.

Not only is Hester not a wide receiver any more — which is a great decision from the new Marc Trestman-led regime — but he also is only “competing” for the return man job. Meaning if they feel he doesn’t provide enough value at the return spot any longer, Hester could be looking for employment elsewhere before the season starts.

In fact, as soon as Trestman was hired by GM Phil Emery, he said that he viewed Hester as only a return specialist, and nothing more. And with good reason.

In six seasons as a receiver, Hester only had 217 receptions and 14 touchdowns. An average of about 36 receptions and two-three touchdowns per year. However, the Chicago Bears front office and coaching staff tried to pass him off as a No. 1 for at least four of those seasons, which is ridiculous and needs to be criticized at this point.

I mean, seriously, the numbers are just plain awful. When compared to Brandon Marshall‘s last six seasons — a true No. 1 target without question — it’s like pretending your car that you just bought is awesome, but you know that it’s a ’95 Chevy Cavalier and it’s horrible. Doesn’t even have air conditioning.

Anyway… Marshall had 592 catches and 43 touchdowns. An average of almost 99 grabs and just over seven touchdowns per season. The scary thing? They could’ve been even better if not for two mediocre (for his standards anyway) seasons with the Miami Dolphins.

Alas, we no longer have to worry about that. Gone are the days of Hester being on offense, but are his days on the Bears’ 53-man roster numbered?

Back to what Trestman said about Hester, CSNChicago.com’s John Mullin provided the report on Sunday.

“Trestman said as much earlier this offseason and observing the rotations during minicamp, with Earl Bennett among others fielding kicks,” Mullin wrote Sunday. “Trestman again used the word ‘competing’ to describe Hester’s situation as the Bears’ primary returner.

“With the Bears tight against the salary cap, Hester’s 2013 base of $1.85 million is potentially a factor, as is his age (31 in November), if he does not establish a level of dominance approaching what he had before working into the offense as a receiver.”

As a Bears fan, I really appreciate this approach by Trestman. Is Hester the best return man on the roster? I would say yes still. And even if Trestman does or does not recognize that, he is going to make him earn his spot. That’s a very good culture to have instilled that hopefully brings competition and level of play up as training camp nears.

However, in the past week, Hester has said that he feels “energized,” which at the very least is a major step up from considering retirement several months ago.

“I’m having fun,” Hester said according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “I feel more energized, more in shape as far as my legs being fresh by limiting some of my reps. It reminds me of my first two years.”

That is intriguing. If Hester can get anywhere near the production he did in his first two years, or even provides half of what he did (11 kick/punt return touchdowns plus one field goal return), he will have more than earned his salary in 2013. And more importantly, he will give the Bears an aspect they missed last season.

In 2012, teams still kicked away from Hester from time to time, but even when he did get an opportunity, he was never really able to get anything going. He had no touchdowns and his longest run-back was a 44-yard punt return. The main question is, was it him or the special teams unit as a whole?

The Bears have had great blocking on special teams during his time with the team, however, last year, it didn’t seem like the lanes were there very often. Or if there was a big hole, it usually meant there was a clipping or holding penalty.

With new special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and a rather impressive amount of depth on the team, the third phase could very well revert back to form.

My take on Hester’s outlook: he will make the team as the No. 1 return man and put in at least two touchdowns, but I’m an optimistic guy.

Hopefully, though, this will be a fresh start for Hester where we could hear some more, “DEVIN HESTER, YOU ARE RIDICULOUS,” calls from radio announcer Jeff Joniak in 2013.

Brian Neal is an intern at Rant Sports and senior mass communications major at Lewis University. Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23 and “Like” him on Facebook.

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