Devin Hester has quickly and rightly built a reputation as one of the league's most dangerous return men. The Vikings familiar with his style comment on the elusive speedster.
Among the challenges the Vikings will face in Sunday's game at Chicago will be containing Pro Bowl return man Devin Hester
It won't be an easy assignment.
Hester set a single-season NFL record as a rookie in 2006 with five returns for touchdowns (three punts, two kicks), including a 45-yard punt return for a score in the Bears' 23-13 victory over the Vikings last December at Soldier Field.
Vikings receiver Bobby Wade
, who has averaged 5.8 yards on eight punt returns, calls Hester "extremely special."
Hester already has returned one punt (73 yards) and one kickoff (97 yards) for a touchdown this season; he is averaging 17.4 yards on 16 punts and 24.2 yards on 15 kickoffs.
Some teams are willing to sacrifice field position in order to make sure Hester does not get his hands on the ball. It remains to be seen how Vikings special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro will attempt to keep Hester in check.
Vikings veteran kicker Ryan Longwell
puts Hester up there with some of the top return men he has faced, adding the second-year player isn't afraid to freelance.
"The thing that Hester does that is different than the rest is if the return is called left and there is a window right, he'll run it right by himself and run past everybody," Longwell said. "He has that going for him and he's very similar to Eddie Drummond
in the fact that he's never down until the whistle is blown. When you think he's done he can escape and run it back."
Said Wade: "He can do a lot with that football. Especially in space. His speed is phenomenal, his vision is exceptional and his willingness to want to do those things. Not only that but compliment those other 10 guys that are on that team, blocking on that kickoff return team and that punt return team. They do an exceptional job, too. But Devin Hester will just continue to get better as well."
QB Tarvaris Jackson appears ready to return Sunday at Chicago after missing two games because of a groin strain. Jackson threw four interceptions in his last game, a Week 2 overtime loss at Detroit. His 40.0 rating ranks 51st among quarterbacks in the NFL.
RB Adrian Peterson is ranked ninth in the NFL with 383 rushing yards on 76 attempts. His attempts are the least among the top 10 running backs in the league. Peterson also has become a semi-regular on kickoff returns, averaging 30.0 yards on four returns.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe has nine receptions for 107 yards and is tied for third on the team with Peterson in catches. His longest reception went for 25 yards.
WR Bobby Wade, who was signed as a free agent from Tennessee in the offseason, leads the Vikings with 15 catches for 180 yards but still does not have a touchdown. Wade spent his first two-plus seasons in Chicago, the team the Vikings will face Sunday.
WR Troy Williamson has only six catches for 65 yards in three games. Williamson sat out on Sept. 23 at Kansas City because of a hamstring injury. The Vikings are taking occasional deep shots for the speedy Williamson but he does not appear to be central to the game plan at this point.
NT Pat Williams was neutralized in the Vikings' last game, a Sept. 30 loss to Green Bay, by the fact the Packers spent the majority of the game showing pass. That led to the Pro Bowl tackle spending more time than usual watching from the sideline and broke up the formidable combination he forms with fellow tackle Kevin Williams.
DL Darrion Scott injured his left foot in Monday's practice and was on crutches; his status for Sunday's game is uncertain.
S Dwight Smith was among those who benefited most from the bye week. Smith had missed practice time the two weeks before the bye but was able to play against Kansas City and Green Bay. He should be fine to practice on a regular basis beginning this week.
RB Mewelde Moore said he isn't bothered by trade rumors that have him going to Tampa Bay. "I'm happy with being able to have this opportunity, this privilege to play the game," said Moore, the Vikings' No. 3 running back. "Anybody who plays and competes, wants to compete and wants to go out there and help their team win. ... (To be) more involved in everything, everybody wants that. But also as a professional it's very important that you do everything that is in your power to get ready, be prepared and (be) ready at anytime to go out and help your team."
QB Kelly Holcomb figures to be in a backup role at Chicago as Tarvaris Jackson returns from injury. Brooks Bollinger, who spent the first two games as the No. 2 QB, will remain in the No. 3 spot.