Bears-Dolphins matchup of the day: Tuesday

Posted Nov. 16, 2010 @ 6:04 p.m.
Posted By Dan Parr

Here's a look at a key matchup heading into Thursday night's game between the Bears and Dolphins.

Bears WR Devin Hester vs. Dolphins' kickoff- and punt-coverage units

Just a few days after Hester had kickoff returns of 68 and 32 yards, he'll run into the Dolphins' kickoff-coverage unit, which is ranked toward the bottom of the league and allows 26.6 yards per return.

Hester hadn't returned a kickoff all season prior to Sunday, and he's not the full-time kickoff returner. The plan is to put Danieal Manning or Johnny Knox back deep occasionally to give Hester, who still is involved on offense, a break if he needs one. Hester is considered more of a big-play threat, but Knox went to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner after last season and Manning is averaging a respectable 24.9 yards per return this year. All three players have the ability to give the Bears great field position.

Miami has done a better job covering punts — it's ranked 10th in average return allowed — but it has also allowed two punts to be blocked, and Brandon Fields is ranked 24th in the league in net punting average (36.5) among qualifiers. Fields' protection has been better of late, but the coverage will be tested if Fields punts to Hester and doesn't get enough air under the ball to give Miami's players a chance to force Hester to make a fair catch.