Devin Hester is the best return man in NFL history and after signing a three-year deal in the offseason with the Atlanta Falcons it was believed he would continue to focus on return duties as he did at the end of his tenure with the Chicago Bears.
However, his Falcons teammates believe Hester will make an impact as a wide receiver this year where Hester failed in his attempt to serve as a competent receiver for the Bears.
“The thing that people don’t understand,” Julio Jones told TheMMQB.com’s Peter King, “is that for us, he’s not just going to be a returner. We’ve seen it out here. He can help us as a receiver, and he is helping us.”
After his rookie season when Hester led the NFL in punt returns, punt return yards, punt returns for touchdown and kicks returned for touchdowns, Bears head coach Lovie Smith wanted to get the ball in the hands of the electric player, but the experiment as a receiver never materialized.
From 2007-2012, Hester had 217 receptions for 2.807 yards (12.9 avg) and 14 touchdowns. His career-high of 57 receptions for 757 yards came back in 2009 with his numbers decreasing across the board every year since.
In 2013, the receiver experiment ended and Hester focused on his return duties and had his first return touchdown in two seasons and led the NFL in kick returns and kick return yards.
The hope was that Hester would be able to stretch the defense and put a home run threat on the field and draw coverage his way, but it never came to fruition on a consistent basis, but Jones and Roddy White are optimistic Hester can complement them and Harry Douglas on offense.
You can expect some skepticism that Hester can be a focal point of the offense, but the difference between Chicago and Atlanta is that unlike in Chicago he actually has some help around him and won’t have to be anything more than a decoy or gadget-type of player.