One of the toughest tasks facing the Chicago Bears as they prepare for the start of the 2014 NFL season is how to go about replacing the most prolific kick returner in the history of the league. Devin Hester and the Bears organization went their separate ways this offseason when Hester became a free agent. Now the Bears must take up the ardent task of replacing him.
As the Bears open training camp later this month there will be a few guys vying for the right to take over the return duties, though the most intriguing candidate is former Canadian Football league rookie of the year, Chris Williams. At 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, Williams went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft and, after bouncing around the league on practice squads, made the move to the CFL. What makes him intriguing for the Bears is the CFL connection with Bears head coach Marc Trestman, who coached the Montreal Alouettes from 2007-2012 prior to joining the Bears in 2013.
Trestman was able to see Williams’ impact on a game firsthand when in 2012, Williams set a CFL record with six return touchdowns in a season for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He was also able to add 83 receptions for 1,298 yards and 11 touchdowns that season. Trestman’s familiarity with Williams’ game should give him the leg up on his competition during training camp.
Of course the team has stated publicly that they are having an open competition to find their return man, and Williams will still need to earn a starting role. His main competition for the job will come from veteran Eric Weems and probable third string running back Michael Ford. Weems figures to be very active early on in the return game as he has the most experience from his previous tenure with the Atlanta Falcons, which included a Pro Bowl season in 2010. His age might be his undoing, however, as Williams is a two years younger and has less NFL inflicted hits on his body.
If Williams is able to retain any of the magic he had working during his record season, the Bears could find themselves in great shape return wise.
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