One of the first players Mike Martz was asked about after being hired as the Bears’ new offensive coordinator was kick returner Devin Hester. Martz said he liked Hester’s speed and thought he could play the role of the slot receiver that Az Hakim excelled at when Martz was with the Rams.
Fast forward to this week when Martz’s superior, Lovie Smith, said, “I don’t know whose plan that was,” when asked about Hester possibly moving to the slot in a diminished role as Martz had suggested.
“To me, if you have a player as exciting as Hester, you want to get him as many touches as you possibly can,” Smith added.
Yes, while it’s true that Hester is still one of the most dangerous players in the open field due to his vision and elusiveness, getting the ball in his hands has been a problem since his transition to receiver a few years ago. Even more cumbersome is getting Hester to be in the right place at the right time.
Even Hester acknowledged earlier this off-season, and before that Martz interview, that he feels he needs to have a bigger role in the return game. Getting back to his roots, so to speak, when he was on his way to becoming the greatest kick returner of all time.
Why is it that Smith sees Hester’s role differently than Martz and Hester do? Furthermore, why does Smith still think Hester is a No. 1 receiver when almost all of Bear Nation — as well as analysts nationwide — sees that he is clearly not one?
If it were up to me, Devin Aromashodu and Earl Bennett would be your starting wide receivers entering training camp. (Actually, if it really were up to me, Aromashodu and Torry Holt would be the starters). Hester would move to the slot where he belongs and field both kickoffs and punts. Johnny Knox should compete with Hester for playing time and could be on the field should Martz decide to go with a four-receiver set on certain plays.
In fairness to Hester, he did make improvements last year as a receiver. But these improvements were minimal and hardly befitting of a true No. 1 wideout.
It’s still March, which means there’s a lot of time for the roster and depth chart to take shape. And with Smith’s back against the wall, he’s not going to try to shove a square peg into a round hole. His tolerance and patience will be in short supply and if one of the other receivers on the roster outplays Hester, Smith won’t hesitate to make the switch.
He won’t have any other choice if he wants to keep his job.