Tag:Devin Hester
Posted on: August 13, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: August 13, 2011 10:09 pm

Bears kicked off at the 30-yard-line: Why?

Posted by Will Brinson

You've certainly heard about the NFL's new rule on kickoffs: they're happening from the 35-yard-line now. Not the 30.

Maybe the Chicago Bears missed the memo?

Because they spent their first preseason game on Saturday night (as you can see from the photo to your right) kicking off from the 30-yard-line.

Per Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago, the press box official at Soldier Field has been screaming at the Bears -- "They cannot kickoff from the 30!" -- in vain. (It's very far away from the field, as you might guess.)

For whatever reason, Chicago's simply refusing to kick from the 35-yard-line.

"The team is simply evaluating our kickoff coverage unit," a Bears spokesman told CBSSports.com.

So then it's not anything to do with the fac that three teams truly got hosed by the NFL's decision to change things up: the Bears, the Seahawks and the Browns. The latter two recently extended return specialists (Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs, respectively) and the Bears rely on Devin Hester to be a gamechanger on special teams.

That's good. Although Mike Pereira, former VP of Officiating at the NFL, tweeted that "Carl Johnson called and put a stop to it." So clearly someone at the NFL wasn't too thrilled that the Bears were using the preseason to practice kickoff coverage by sacrificing safety.

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Posted on: July 12, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 6:40 pm

Hester wants Bears to sign Santana Moss

Posted by Will Brinson

For as amazing as Devin Hester's been as a returner during his career with the Bears, he's never quite worked out as a receiver. He's had his moments, of course, but it's usually been a lack of a decent quarterback or another receiver on the field that's kept him from maxing his big-play potential.

Which is probably why he wants the Bears to go out and sign Santana Moss once free agency starts up.

"Anybody that can come in and help out the team, I’m down for it, and a guy like [Moss] can come in and really help out a lot," Hester said, per the Chicago Tribune. "I’m hoping we can get him."

That might seem simple -- "Hey, Bears, go spend money!" -- but it could be a little tougher to pry Moss away from the Redskins.

See, even though he's a free agent, he has stated that he'd like to come back to Washington, although his reasoning seems predicated on his preference to not negotiate a contract.

If he's willing to be swayed, though, certainly Chicago offers a better situation: Hester (a fellow former Miami Hurricane) on the other side will force teams to play off him more than anyone in Washington, and Jay Cutler's far better than the three-headed monster that is Donovan McNabb/Rex Grossman/John Beck.

But, hey, to each his own -- if Moss really wants to hang around and kick it with the Shanahans, more power to him.

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Posted on: March 31, 2011 12:05 pm

Hot Routes 3.31.11: Lights, camera, action

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • Larry Johnson, set to go on trial for allegedly spitting a drink on a woman at a bar in 2008, thinks he can’t get a fair jury trial in Kansas City. Any place, his attorney said, would be better than Kansas City.
  • Apparently, Ravens S Tom Zbikwoski isn’t the only Ravens player who can handle himself in a fight. Watch how Kelly Gregg (a three-time state wrestling champion in Oklahoma) and Arthur Jones (a two-time state titlist in New York) go after each other in this video. With Ray Lewis on the play-by-play.
  • Washington QB Jake Locker participated in his Pro Day on Wednesday and completed 38 of 40 attempts against the air (his only two misses came on 50-yard passes). But not everybody is convinced he’s going to be a star. Analyst Michael Lombardi thinks Locker is a project and wouldn’t draft him before the third round.
  • ESPN New York reports Giants C Shaun O’Hara underwent his second surgery of the offseason this week to clean out his left ankle and Achilles. Earlier this offseason, he had surgery on his right foot.
  • One of the more interesting storylines of the NFL draft will be about Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, his balky knee and which team will take a chance on him. Some analysts are saying he’s off a couple teams’ draft boards completely because of failed physicals.

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Posted on: March 22, 2011 6:45 pm

Cribbs shaking his head at new kickoff rule

J. Cribbs was not happy to see the NFL change the kickoff rules (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Browns KR/WR Josh Cribbs is not a huge fan of the new NFL rule that will place the kickoff spot at the 35-yard line (instead of the 30-yard line). Not a huge fan at all.

Though the original proposal made by the NFL rules committee, which would have given a team the ball at the 25-yard line instead of the 20 for a touchback and would have eliminated the two-man wedge, was tweaked, Cribbs still wasn’t happy.

From his Twitter account, he wrote: “NFL rule changes are BS... U not making the game safer u messing a great sport, trynna hide behind safety just to add 2 games...smh”

The reasoning behind the rule change – which was passed today at the NFL owners meetings in New Orleans – was for safety reasons. Kickoffs theoretically will be less dangerous now (though leaving in the two-man wedge lessens the original intent), because there will be fewer returns and more touchbacks. But Cribbs makes the claim that players will actually be harmed by the new rule.

“Essentially taking returners out of the game...injuries will still take place, then what move it up again, or eliminate it all together..” Cribbs tweeted. “Not just speaking for myself, but it affects the blue collar NFL players which are the majority who don't have big names, it extends careers.”

Added Bears record-holding returner Devin Hester on his Twitter account : “Hey hey fans don't get mad about the new rule, my run back just going 2 be over a 100 yards now. I hate them 90 something yards anyway!!!!!!”

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Posted on: March 22, 2011 11:31 am

Offseason Checkup: Chicago Bears

Posted by Andy Benoit

Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups. Also, check out our checkup podcast:

Lovie Smith earned a new contract after his seemingly mediocre team ended its three-year run of mediocrity. The ending of the Bears’ season became THE story of the postseason when Jay Cutler left the NFC Championship with a strained MCL. The loss of Cutler’s strong arm confirmed what many already knew: the Bears had been paddling upstream all season against the current of their awful offensive line, ho-hum receiving corps and close-to-lethargic run game.

Credit Cutler and especially the surprisingly malleable Mike Martz for making late season adjustments that compensated for these weaknesses. Helping compensate for offensive shortcomings was the resurgence of a defense that saw MLB Brian Urlacher return from his ’09 wrist injury fresh as can be and long-time Panther Julius Peppers provide a much-needed pass-rushing presence while galvanizing the run defense.

 Every time you put on the film, Nick Roach, the athletic four-year linebacker, stands out. Roach, undrafted out of Northwestern, has been a special teamer who only starts when someone is injured. Last season, it was Pisa Tinoisamoa’s bum knee that propelled Roach to the first string. Predictably, Roach proved to be an upgrade over Tinoisamoa.

Roach's lack of size and abundance of speed make him better equipped for the weak side in a Cover 2 system. Obviously, this team’s weakside position is held down by Lance Briggs. But given Chicago’s options on the strong side, Roach is worth playing out of position.

(Not to push too much change too fast, but Briggs is actually built more like a strongside linebacker anyway. So if the Bears really wanted to mix things up – which, we know, they don’t – they could relocate their veteran Pro Bowler, too.)

1. Offensive tackle
Just because J'Marcus Webb started as a rookie doesn’t mean he’s the answer at right tackle. The lumbering seventh-round pick only started because the team’s Gatorade cooler didn’t have hands or feet and the tackling sled didn’t know all the plays. The Bears could also stand to upgrade at left tackle, though veteran Frank Omiyale survived well enough in that spot last season.

2. Interior offensive line
Center Olin Kreutz hit a wall in 2010. It wouldn’t be sensible to re-sign the 33-year-old. Left guard Chris Williams is a former first-round pick who didn’t take the field until 2009. You hate to give up on the guy this early, but watch him in pass protection and you see that you wouldn’t be giving up on much.

3. Wide receiver
Devin Hester is at worst a gadget play specialist but at best only a slot option. Johnny Knox is a zone-beater with speed to burn, but it’s hard to picture teams ever rolling their coverage to his side of the field. With Earl Bennett being almost strictly an underneath target, there’s room to insert a downfield playmaking weapon in this rotation.

Any team that hosts the NFC Championship and returns virtually all of its players the next season will have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. But it wouldn’t be outlandish to proclaim these Bears a one-hit wonder. A little more firepower and a lot more blocking prowess are needed offensively. Defensively, the table is pretty well set, though coaches have for years been searching for a playmaker at the safety position.

Finding one may be necessary for putting this unit over the top. As things stand, this is far and away the second best team in the NFC North.

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 11:54 am
Edited on: March 16, 2011 2:14 pm

Major rules changes coming for NFL?

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When owners convene next week for what seems like their 50th meeting of the year, the NFL’s competition committee has some recommendations for them (hopefully, Jerry Jones won’t tap his fists together and walk out of this meeting).

According to several reporters who were on a teleconference call with Rich McKay, chair of the committee, there are number of potential rules changes. Here they are:

1) The most-impactful proposal is the idea to move the kickoff spot from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line, to make the touchback starting point the 25-yard line (instead of the 20) and to eliminate all wedge blocking, including the two-man wedge.

This proposal, says the committee, is because of player safety. Since kickoffs are so potentially dangerous, it’s pretty clear the committee wants to reduce the amount of kickoffs that can be fielded. Even if a place-kicker can’t get the ball out of the end zone from the 35-yard line, returners will be less likely to run back a kick from the middle of the end zone, now that a team would get possession at the 25-yard line on a touchback.

If this rule is adopted, that would, I imagine, lessen the impact of players like Devin Hester and Leon Washington.

The elimination of wedge plays isn’t a surprise, because of how dangerous those blocks are for the person who’s being double-teamed. In fact, McKay said, some teams proposed eliminating kickoffs altogether (how crazy would that be, by the way?).

2) Expect suspensions for those who make dangerous hits on defenseless receivers. This, obviously, also is because of safety, and since the players have had half a season to get used to this new paradigm, I expect the NFL to start actually suspending players. Especially for repeat offenders and for the worst of the worst hits.
Player safety

3) Regarding instant replay, the committee wants to adopt a rule in which all scoring plays would be booth reviews. This would eliminate the coaches’ ability to challenge on a TD (or a field goal, I suppose). This obviously is a move to the college game, though McKay said he’s not willing to go all the way there (meaning all plays are reviewable by the booth).

And a few other news bits:

-Playoff overtime rules will not extend into the regular season. The main reason: there was no playoff overtime games last year, and the committee still wants to see how that situation would play out before making it all-encompassing.

-The possibility was discussed by the committee, but there will be no proposal for playoff reseeding this season. Good news for, ahem, the Seahawks.

-The NFL schedule will be released in mid-April this year. Just like normal.

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Posted on: February 4, 2011 9:33 am
Edited on: February 4, 2011 9:36 am

Why is Ray Guy not in the HOF?

Ray Guy punting in 1974 (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

DALLAS – Tim Masthay surprised me the other day. I was asking him about punters and about the Hall of Fame and if punters deserved consideration for induction into Canton, Ohio’s most hallowed grounds.

Especially with the 44 sports writers voting for the 2011 Hall of Fame class this Saturday in Dallas, I asked Masthay about punting pioneer Ray Guy (who’s not on the finalists list this year, by the way) and if Guy should be allowed to break the punting barrier.

I expected a defense of Guy – or, at the very least, an explanation of why punters SHOULD be voted in. That’s not what I got from the Packers punter, though.

“I really don’t feel that punters are snubbed that much or that they don’t get the credit that’s due to them,” Masthay said. “I guess punters are like any other position in the sense that they can have a big impact on the game, but I don’t know all the criteria for getting in the Hall of Fame. Whether or not we should qualify, I’m not really sure. I really couldn’t say yes or no. But I know punters can be a big factor in games.”

Right, like the NFC championship game vs. the Bears, when after Green Bay’s offense stalled out for much of the contest, Masthay’s booming punts kept the Bears offense in bad field position while making returner Devin Hester largely irrelevant. One could argue that Masthay was the MVP of that game. If a game like that doesn’t engage a conversation, what will?

“I don’t really worry about that stuff,” Masthay said. “I can see why it’s tough, because the most you’re going to play is about eight plays in a game. I don’t really feel that punters are snubbed to be honest.”

I disagree. The only pure kicker in the Hall of Fame is Jan Stenerud, though that might change five years after Adam Vinatieri retires. But Guy was such a big part of revolutionizing the game with his talent and style. Hell, he’s been a finalist seven times but hasn’t taken that next step.

“He brought punting into the modern era, and if there was a patron saint of punters of the league, he’s it,” said Joe Reedy, the Bengals beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer and a Hall of Fame voter. “And he should be in. But with all special team players, it’s difficult. We see the backlog of players just among the final 15. I think all of them deserve to be in, but you can only get so many of them in at the same time.”

Reedy thinks Guy eventually will make his way into the Hall of Fame, but I’m beginning to have my doubts. Masthay doesn’t seem to mind either way.

“You look at the selectors, and every year, there are two to three different guys that cycle in who are new that kind of change the persona or change the outlook a little bit,” Reedy said. “Most of us growing up saw the special teams age and saw how valuable Guy was. It slants it more and more in his favor.”

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: January 22, 2011 10:37 am

The best way to play vs. Hester

How to play against D. Hester isn't always the easiest decision (US Presswire). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

What is the best way to punt the ball to Devin Hester? I asked the same question to Gale Sayers Friday morning in our Five questions (or more) segment, and we never really came up with an answer.

Do you punt the ball out of bounds? Do you try to pin him on the sidelines? Do you, as the Seahawks did last week, say, “Screw it, we’re kicking right at him?” What can do you do?

Maybe the Seahawks had the right idea, though maybe not in the way you’d expect.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught up with Seattle P Jon Ryan on Friday, and basically, the Seahawks’ game plan was to kick it high and make Hester fair catch as many punts as possible.

It’s not going to help your punting average – presumably, those high, end-over-end punts are going to be shorter than normal – but as Seattle showed last week, it can be effective. Out of nine punts last week, Hester let four of them bounce, fair-caught three of them and returned two for a combined total of 30 yards.

"Our plan was to go after every punt as if it was a pooch punt," Ryan told the paper. "So I kicked all the punts end over end. They told me they didn't want anything over 35 yards and get as many fair catches as we could.

"You're not going to have a 50-yard average, by any means. But you're also not going to be watching Hester celebrate in the end zone. It's a bit of a trade-off. I think it's a very effective way to control Hester.

"The game plan was to eliminate Hester. We weren't going to flip the field. Our special-teams coach (Brian Schneider) believed we succeeded."

For the game, Ryan averaged 35.0 yards per punt with a 31.7 net and a hang time of 4.16 seconds. And no Hester returned TDs.

One other interesting aspect of this article. One scout said Hester would much prefer to catch the ball outside the hash marks – meaning that trying to pin him on the sidelines isn’t always an effective plan – because he knows there are less defenders there that can bring him down. Said that scout, "He won't run up and catch it. He's scared. He thinks he's going to get hit."

Read the rest of the story. There’s some interesting insight there about how to deal with the game’s most dangerous returner since … well, Gale Sayers.

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Category: NFL
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