“We have faced a lot of good returners this year already,” Ravens assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. “When we play Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, we face very good punt returners of that caliber and of that type. We have a lot of confidence in our punt game. We have good gunners, we have a good punter and we have good inside core guys, so we are going to do all we can to try to contain him with what we do.”
Hester, who signed with the Falcons this offseason after becoming one of the game’s best returners during his eight seasons with the Chicago Bears, is third in the league in punt return average (12.5 yards) and 10th in kickoff return average (23.9 yards).
Earlier this season, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown, the 20th return score of his career, breaking Deion Sanders’ NFL record.
“It’s up to our guys. They relish a challenge,” Rosburg said. “And playing against the best returner, touchdown-wise, that there’s ever been, that’s a great challenge for our guys. They look forward to that challenge, but they also have a great deal of respect for whom we are playing.”
Twenty-eight of kicker Justin Tucker’s 35 kickoffs have gone for touchbacks this season, which has helped limit opposing kick returners. Overall, Ravens opponents are averaging 23.5 yards per kickoff return and 9 yards per punt return. But Hester is in a class all his own.
“He has the perfect combination of skills for a returner,” Rosburg said. “He’s fast, and he has incredible change-of-direction skills. He can run up and smell somebody’s breath and then disappear. … Every time you give him the ball, he’s a threat to take it to the house, and that’s his goal.”