- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Seemingly every offseason reports emerge declaring the upcoming year to be the one in which Devin Hester finally consistently makes an impact on the Chicago Bears’ offense.
Perhaps this time, it’s the truth, Hester believes.
“I’ll say because of (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice. When a guy comes up to you and says, ‘If I can’t get the ball in your hands I don’t deserve to be a head coach.’ For a guy to say that and know what I’m capable of and honestly says he has a lot of faith in me, (that’s encouraging),” Hester said.
Teammates Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler have also consistently uttered similar glowing comments about Hester, with both saying he’s poised for a breakout 2012 season. Just last month, receivers coach Darryl Drake gave some insight as to how the team plans to use Hester.
“I’ll say this about Devin Hester, and I’ve always said it: all we’ve got to do is use him, and you’ll see what kind of player he is, period,” Drake said. “If he’s out there, put the ball in his hands. We need to have that package, and (offensive coordinator) Mike Tice -- I promise you -- he's gonna do it.”
Working with quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, Tice has already tweaked the passing portion of Chicago’s offense to a system very similar to the Denver Broncos’ passing offense of 2001. That means Hester will run defined routes on most plays instead of trying to think through the system the way receivers did under former coordinator Mike Martz, who utilized a scheme heavy with hot routes and routes that had to be broken off based on the look shown by the defense.
Martz’s system played a role in the team’s receiving corps playing somewhat apprehensively in the past.
“It’s gonna be a lot easier for those guys,” Cutler said of the new system.
The addition of Marshall also contributes to the team’s optimism concerning Hester. Widely considered one of the NFL’s top receivers, Marshall will likely draw double coverage from defenses, and that will result in single coverage somewhere on the field, possibly on Hester.
That's what the Bears expect this season, and the club plans to make opponents pay.
“We can’t be afraid to throw the ball down the field against single coverage. If we get single coverage, we’ve got to be able to take advantage of that,” Tice said. “Free access on a great player should be something that a defense should be punished for doing, I’ve always felt that. We’re going to make sure we do that.”
Such statements light up the eyes of Hester, who plans to “take a week and a half off” before getting back into training mode to “make sure my body is ready when it’s time for camp.”
“It’s gonna be so competitive (at the receiver position), not in a bad way but in a good way,” Hester said. “Every guy -- once they step on the field -- (is) capable of making big plays. That’s the good thing about this team: it’s (full of) a lot of great athletes.”
Hester believes Tice will be key to him making an impact at receiver.