It wouldn’t be a Bears off-season without coaches and players giving Hester the highest praise among his WR peers. “Devin Hester is having the best camp of all the receivers,” Jay Cutler said at the end of last week's OTAs session. That’s just one of many bouquets thrown Hester’s way for his off-season performance this year (now if only his high work ethic in practice can transfer to game day).
The team, in previous seasons, made Hester the No. 1 primary receiver in the offense, which usually sets him up against the opposing defense’s best CB—thus, the desire to talk-up Hester. The addition of, arguably, a top-5 WR in Brandon Marshall, and a talented second-round rookie in Alshon Jeffery, should set Hester up to face a team’s second, and sometimes third, best CB depending on the offensive formation.
So what exactly is the “Hester Package” that General Manager Phil Emery talked about after last month’s Draft? Former Bears’ coordinators Ron Turner and Mike Martz used Hester exclusively on the outside as a flanker, where he would face the opposing team’s best CB.
My assumption is that Hester will be used not only at the Flanker position but also in the slot with Jeffery or Earl Bennett bumped out to Flanker; Marshall positioned at Split End. There is also the possibility that in this “Hester Package,” Devin sees snaps out the backfield.
Hester at the Flanker: The Z WR is usually lined up off the line of scrimmage so they have room to set up the defender in order to avoid press coverage. Hester’s speed on the outside will force a safety over on his side and allow open areas in the middle of the field for the slot WR, TE and RB to make a play. If Hester is not accounted for on the outside by the secondary, there’s a good chance he can make a big play deep down field or in the short to intermediate parts of the field on slant and crossing routes.
Hester in the Slot: This area is where I, and many other Bears fans, feel that Hester can do his most damage as a WR. His strength as a WR is his quickness in and out of breaks, and when you combine that with his ability to change directions while maintaining speed, it makes him a tough cover for Nickel defensive backs and linebackers.
Hester in the Backfield: Like in the slot, Hester coming out the backfield could present match-up problems for LBs who usually draw the assignment of the tailback coming out the backfield. Something you could potentially see is Hester shifting from the backfield to the slot, where he will be line up across from a LB.
Overall, if I had to guess, the “Hester Package” is simply a group of looks that give an athlete like Hester the best the chance to make big plays without the pressure of being the No. 1 or No. 2 primary guy. Gone are the days of Hester being counted on to be one of your top-2 primary targets; he’s now a luxury weapon in a better position to be a pure playmaker.