<
>

WRs coach Drake fervently defends Hester

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake thinks the club's last offensive scheme ignored Devin Hester, which resulted in the wideout posting his lowest receiving numbers since 2007.

Drake said he expects Hester to surpass the 26 catches for 369 yards he totaled in 2011 this upcoming season.

"If he stays healthy, I hope so," Drake said. "If he doesn't have more then we failed him. But I'm sure he'll have more than 26 [receptions]. Only time he had 26 was when? Last year. We didn't throw it to him. Who's fault was that? Wasn't his. Wasn't mine."

Hester's productivity at wide receiver took a sharp hit after Mike Martz was hired as Chicago's offensive coordinator prior to the 2010 season. Hester went from hauling in at least 50 passes in 2008 (51) and 2009 (57), to catching just 40 balls in Martz's first year on the job followed by the meager 26 receptions last season, after which Martz was dimissed.

"When you've got a great player, you've got to feed him," Drake said. "If Michael Jordan didn't touch the ball he'd have problems, you know because he would demand it. You've got to get him the ball, and you've got to feed him. And he's getting the ball, and he's feeling good about things right now."

The Bears began the offseason by promising to create a special package of plays for Hester in an effort to maximize the speedsters strengths and get him more involved in the offense. According to Drake, Hester responded to the increased role and in the estimation of the receivers coach, has been the most improved receiver since the end of last season.

"In every way possible...route running, everything, you just see it in everything he does right now," Drake said. "He understands it. I mean, it's bam, that's what you're seeing. If you watched practice today, how many times did he get covered? That's the difference. I think he's probably the most improved, in my opinion, but when it comes to Devin, I'm kind of prejudice, you guys know that. But I just see a lot of improvement in a lot of areas. He's no longer worrying about being the guy, you know, he's just playing."

Hester and Brandon Marshall lined up as the top two receivers during the Bears first training camp practice on Thursday.