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By Jim Coffman

The guy I worry about in the aftermath of the Bears' exhibition opener Saturday is our man Devin Hester. No entity has been a bigger fan of the Ridiculous One than The Beachwood Reporter but Hester crammed a bunch of butt-ugly plays into an awfully brief appearance in Buffalo.

Jay Cutler simply couldn't throw him the ball enough. In what was it -14 plays with Cutler? - Hester appeared to screw up one route, give up on another and fail miserably to even contest the up-for-grabs pass that became Cutler's interception.

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  • Then again, Hester did run one very good route that could have gone a long way to making up for the others. After the Bears moved inside the 10 during the starting quarterback's last drive of the night, Hester made a good feint to the outside and got a little separation as he began to cross the end zone.

    But as Fox network analyst Erik Kramer pointed out, Cutler, who some criticized after the exhibition for getting rid of his passes too quickly in order to avoid any chance of being hit and injured, chose this moment to hold the ball too long. By the time he zipped his pass toward Hester, a linebacker had managed to drop back far enough to tip it away. But even if Cutler had delivered the pass on time and Hester had hauled it in, the Bears have to have more consistent execution from their best receiver if their passing game is to click.

    Oh, and another problem was that Hester didn't return any punts. Given how he struggled with that task all of last year, it seems clear a little practice is warranted. That's especially the case given the fact that if the guy doesn't take a big stride soon (hauling in a half-dozen or so Jay Cutler passes per game during say, the first half of this season would be what we're looking for), it will be time to re-think his role again and re-emphasize returns. Really.

    The case for Hester being on the cusp of receiver stardom is shaky at best, despite what the training camp hawks would have you believe (stories in all local media outlets in the past few weeks about how much better Hester has been practicing than he has in the past). He'll have to take a huge leap with a brand new quarterback. And he can't make the sort of dumb plays that have too often marred his performance at receiver for the Bears in previous years.

    We're not expecting perfection, we just don't want to see multiple situations per game in which the receiver and the quarterback aren't on the same page and it seems clear that the receiver was the guy who lost his place. And we saw multiple plays like that in just the first quarter Saturday.

    Otherwise, the game with Buffalo was just about a completely meaningless enterprise. I bowed out (watching) when Cutler did. The next game will be slightly more important (and hopefully will feature Matt Forte and Greg Olsen for at least a little while) and the third exhibition game will be our best chance to at least get a little feel for whether offensive coordinator Ron Turner and Jay Cutler will be able to pull this off (create an effective passing offense) this quickly or if it will take more time. Because if given enough time, and an infusion of another good receiver or two, Turner and Cutler will get this done.

    Kramer's Call
    My favorite thing about Saturday's game, or at least, the first quarter-and-a-half of it, was the announcing. Sam Rosen is solid on the play-by-play. He isn't one of my favorites but hell, he's much better than so many of the guys the networks foist on us these days in sport after sport. Can you believe that Fox TV continues to trot out Dick Stockton for baseball games of the week on Saturdays? I guarantee my 10-year-old son, with two weeks of practice, would do a better job on a Cubs or a White Sox game than Stockton, who last competently called a big game when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird still roamed the court. And even way back then, he was a basketball guy, not a baseball guy.

    As for Kramer, well, at the start of the game I was not optimistic. He struggled mightily at this task last year and guys either seem to have it or not have it when it comes to providing color on sports broadcasts.

    But it was clear quickly that Kramer has improved. He was very good on one of Hester's early catches when he pointed out how the receiver, in driving up the field convincingly, forced the DB covering him to turn his hips all the way toward the goal line. Then when Hester cut inside, he had instant separation.

    Later on, Kramer noted how, on Corey Graham's sack, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye dropping into coverage in a potential slant lane was at least a possible factor in Bills quarterback Trent Edwards holding the ball long enough for the corner blitz to get to him.

    On the aforementioned attempted pass to Hester in the end zone, Kramer took Cutler to task not only for delivering the ball late but also "staring down" his receiver before the pass. Good stuff Erik.

    Yin Yang
    I'm still rooting for Tiger Woods to win majors, eventually pass Jack Nicklaus (he totaled 18 British and U.S. Opens, Masters and PGA Championships in his career - Tiger has 14) and to obliterate every last golfing record. Underdogs are nice some of the time but usually I'd rather see another chapter in a story of sustained excellence, as long as the exceller hasn't massively pissed off fans in some way or another. And Woods certainly hasn't done that.

    So the final 18 holes at Hazeltine up in Chaska, Minnesota were disappointing on Sunday despite the compelling story of Korean national Y. E. Yang shocking the sports world by out-dueling the legend (who had never before lost a major - 14-for-14 - when leading after three rounds), and becoming the first Asian-born player to win one of the only four golf tournaments that matter.

    The thing is, it stinks when obscure guys win majors (I thought about saying "when scrubs win majors" but Yang, who is ranked No. 110 in the world, doesn't deserve the "scrub" moniker).

    Do you even remember who won the Masters this year? It was Argentinian pro Angel Cabrera and he hasn't done anything of note since and is not likely to do so again in his career (OK, OK, so Cabrera also won the 2007 U.S. Open - still, he didn't do anything else this year - so work with me).

    One of the best things about the PGA was that out-of-nowhere 2009 U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover had another strong run. He ended up fifth and perhaps he is poised to go forward and have a truly substantive career, contending for multiple majors and maybe even winning another big tournament or three.

    At least Yang wasn't a complete flash in the pan. He has won on tour and was even in contention for a while at this year's British Open.

    But if he just fades away from here on out, as so many of the non-Tiger major winners have done during the past decade-plus, his win here will eventually feel like a bunker shot that doesn't quite get over the lip.


    Jim Coffman rounds up the sports weekend in this space every Monday. He welcomes your comments.

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