Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Special Teams Ready For Bears' Hester


As the Redskins get back to playing football in the aftermath of such an emotionally-charged stretch, special teams figures to be a real emphasis.

Danny Smith and his crew will be up against the NFL's most dangerous return specialist Thursday night when they face Chicago and Devin Hester.

There will be all sorts of questions, of course, as to whether to even kick the ball in the direction of Hester.

If that happens, players such as Khary Campbell and Rock Cartwright will need to be on top of their game.

Campbell is once again a leader for Smith. He's coming off his best game, a six-tackle effort versus the Bills. He has 30 special teams tackles on the season; Cartwright is next in line with 29 entering the matchup versus Chicago.

For the last four years, Campbell has been one of the really formidable contributors to special teams. A linebacker by definition, Campbell led the team in special team tackles in both 2005 (34) and 2006 (37).

This year, the Redskins have been among the league's top kick coverage units, allowing just 19.5 yards per kickoff return and 5.6 yards per punt return.

But it appears Hester is playing on a different level.

Head coach Joe Gibbs says no one in the NFL has figured out a way to totally shut down Hester, the former University of Miami star who was on hand for Sean Taylor's funeral on Monday in South Florida.

Said Gibbs: "Everybody has tried a little bit of different game plan at different times. He's an unusual guy. Devin Hester's definitely an exceptional player. This will be a big decision on how we handle this."

Hester has 10 career kickoff and punt returns for a touchdown, which sets a new NFL record.

Hester has reached that mark despite playing in just 28 career games with 135 combined kick returns. For his career, Hester averages a touchdown every 13.5 kick or punt returns, the best ratio in NFL history.

Hester is tied for seventh all-time with six punt returns for a touchdown. He trails three former Redskins: Desmond Howard (who has eight punt returns for a TD), Brian Mitchell (who has nine) and Eric Metcalf (who is the all-time leader with 10.)

Hester is tied for 11th all-time with four kickoff returns for a touchdown. With one more, he ties former Redskin and Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell with five. The all-time record is six, held by six different players.

The Redskins' Cartwright has the challenge of stopping Hester. He also has the challenge of trying to match him.

Cartwright has been a top kick returner this year, averaging 27.3 yards per return. He has a long of 80 yards.

Cartwright admires Hester's skills.

"He's a patient runner, but when he hits the hole well, he's extremely fast," he said. "He has 10 guys on his team trying to make sure he's successful. We're going to do our best to see that he doesn't have a great return against us."

Cartwright is a different returner, certainly. He does not have Hester's speed, but he identifies holes quickly and barrels through them for yardage.

"It's not even me, it's the other 10 guys around me," he said. "Mike [Sellers], Khary--those guys get the blocks. Basically all I do is run. It comes with us playing with each other for a while. We've been together for four years, so it comes with confidence."

Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams says the Bears have found a way to get Hester more involved in their offense, too. So the Redskins' defense will have to be prepared for a challenge.

"We'll have to play him on the defensive side of the football, and any time he touches the football he's a threat to score," Williams said. "He has, as Coach Gibbs would say, an athletic arrogance about him that he feels like he can put the ball in the end zone any time he touches it."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.