We were asking the question back in training camp, all through the preseason, and now seven games into the season, we’re still asking it.
Who is going to return kicks the remainder of the season for the Baltimore Ravens? It certainly seems that Devin Hester isn’t the answer anymore.
After signing a one-year deal this offseason, the veteran returner has left a lot to be desired for Jerry Rosburg’s special teams unit.
Through six games, Hester has totaled 259 yards on nine kick returns while netting just 74 return yards on 12 punt returns. That certainly isn’t what the coaching staff expected from one of the most electric returners in NFL history.
Hampered by injury, the 33-year-old Hester has looked slow and his decision-making skills have left a lot to be desired.
His biggest issues? Ball security and health. Hester has racked up four fumbles on 21 total returns. They have proved costly, providing opponents short fields.
“Ball security is always a big concern of mine and our whole football team in all areas,” stated Jerry Rosburg about his veteran returner. “It’s a concern. I’m really looking forward to having a healthy Devin Hester out there.
“It’s affecting him in two ways: one is just his ability to move, and the other is his ability to practice,” added Rosburg regarding Hester’s injuries. “It’s a tough skill, and he needs to practice. The practice he’s been getting is in pre-game warm-ups, and that’s not enough.
“I’m hopeful these next two weeks he’ll be able to get healthy and be able to be out there next time and do better in the ball security areas. We have a lot of confidence in Devin; he’s a great returner. This hasn’t been his mark over the years. We anticipate better ball security as we go forward.”
Hester is running out of time.
If ball security is indeed their primary concern, the Ravens have options. We’ve seen rookie Chris Moore and veteran Lardarius Webb this season in the kick and punt returner roles. In fact, throughout training camp, many members of the team took reps at the position including rookie Kenneth Dixon and Keenan Reynolds.
Like Harbaugh on Monday, Rosburg was non-committal on other options outside of Webb.
“We’ve had to, because [Hester Sr.] has been unhealthy,” stated Rosburg. “We’ve already used Lardarius out there. We’ll play the best players as we always do in every situation.”
With the team heading into the bye week, Rosburg and company need to figure out the return game quickly. In a game of inches where every yard matters, this version of Hester is a liability. Unless Hester can quickly prove that these last couple of weeks were a fluke, the team should look to move on.
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