This one could bite the Chicago Bears you know where.
This past offseason, Bears GM Phil Emery made a tough decision and let Devin Hester leave via free agency. Hester signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons after eight dynamic years returning punts and kicks for Chicago. Emery made that choice based on the fact that Hester, now 31, although still very good, wasn’t quite the player he once was and was not worth the roster position for a player who was strictly a return specialist. That’s a decision that could greatly hinder the Bears this season.
After two preseason games, the return game is anemic. That’s putting it kindly. Eric Weems has been tagged as the individual to replace Hester on kick returns after spot duty the last two seasons, and his results through two games have been quite lousy. He has yet to show any flashes of any game-breaking ability, and last night against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Weems failed to return any balls past the 20-yard line in four attempts. To add insult to injury, he also fumbled the ball deep in Bears territory; Jacksonville recovered and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Punt returns haven’t been any better. In Week 1, Michael Spurlock returned two punts for a whopping two yards, and he followed that effort up with three punt returns for seven yards against Jacksonville. After some first grade math, Spurlock has nine total yards in five punt return attempts for the preseason, not exactly putting his stamp on the position to this point.
Field position is a critical component to success in the NFL. If the Bears’ return teams are constantly giving the offense lousy field position, the scoring production will inevitably decrease. On a team that needs its high-octane offense to perform given the several questions that surround the defense, the problem with the return teams is one that desperately needs to be addressed the final two weeks of the preseason.
Emery never even picked up the phone to call Hester and see if he was interested in returning to Chicago (Hester was); it looks like the nickel Emery saved on his phone bill could cost the Bears dearly in 2014.