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Looking At Special Teams

Devin Hester has 2 return TDs this year and a combined 602 kickoff return and punt return yards which is close to the pace for the all time record set by Michael Lewis for New Orleans who had 2,432 combined yards in 2002.

This year so far there have been 13 return TDs, the highest amount since 1970.

This article takes a look at reasons why Special Teams play is getting better in recent years.

The Devin Hester factor

Teams are now more willing to reserve a roster space for those whose contributions come almost exclusively on returning punts and kickoffs. Eight of the 13 touchdowns -- led by Hester's two scores for Chicago -- were produced by what San Francisco special teams coach Al Everest calls "return specialists" like Houston's Jerome Mathis, Cleveland's Josh Cribbs and Pittsburgh's Allen Rossum.

"The quality of returner has been greatly upgraded the past few years," said Everest, whose unit allowed Rossum to score on a kickoff in Week 2. "It used to be there was one guy in the league who was kind of special and that would be it. Now, everybody is trying to get 32 of them."

With the exception of a few players in the past like Deion Sanders or Dante Hall, no player has had the impact on special teams play that Devin Hester had.  Even in Sanders prime teams were not kicking out of bounds or squib kicking on any type of regular basis.