Whither Devin: Arizona could solve the Hester headache

Whither Devin: Arizona could solve the Hester headache
February 7, 2013, 4:00 pm
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When Devin Hester was declaring that he would consider retiring in the wake of the Lovie Smith firing, the assumption was that it had to do with Smith being ousted.
It probably did. But probably not entirely. Because when a head coach is dismissed, his staff usually is excused as well, and few player-coach relationships have been as strong as Hester’s with receivers coach Darryl Drake. Hester knew Drake was likely gone as well.
And therein may lie a win-win solution for a situation that has worsened with Hester’s recent comments about not always being fully engaged as a receiver last season.
He also conceded that a change of scenery might be a good thing.
As fate would have it, Drake was indeed let go and now is the wide receivers coach for the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona ostensibly does not need either a receiver or a returner. The Cardinals drafted Michael Floyd out of Notre Dame in last year’s first round and has as good a top-to-bottom wideout group (Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet) as any in the NFC.
And Patrick Peterson has been positively Hester’ian for the most part since coming into the league, with four punt-return touchdowns as a rookie.
But the Cardinals underwent a complete coaching makeover under Bruce Arians, including bringing in Drake. The prospect of also bringing in Hester is intriguing, particularly if new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles wants one of his defensive linchpins to focus there.
Right now the Cardinals plan to leave Peterson returning punts. "Yes indeed,” Arians told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “He can't get his hands on the ball enough. As long as that other team is punting, he's going to be back there. And I hope they're punting a lot. Until he waves me out and says, 'hey, coach can I take a blow?' That's a scoring opportunity every time."
Hester at 30 will not command much more than a fifth-round draft choice, if that. But he is willing to be a return specialist and averaged nearly three yards more per kickoff return (25.9 yards) last season than Arizona’s top two.
And Peterson, behind less effective blocking, failed to take a punt return to the end zone last season; averaged 8.4 yards per return vs. Hester’s 8.3; and fair-caught 14 of 51 punts, while Hester fair-caught just six of his 40.
Peterson was All-Pro and a Pro Bowl returner selection in 2011. He was not last season; he was a Pro Bowl alternate, as a cornerback. The Cardinals used him briefly on offense against the Bears.
The previous Arizona staff wanted Peterson returning kicks. The new staff likes Peterson where he is. But for Hester, a chance to stay with Drake, be a spot player on offense and return kickoffs...