Season review, part 8: special teams

The 49ers high big hopes they could put together a worthy special teams unit, but Joe Nedney got hurt, rookie Kyle Williams faltered and not much went right. Ted Ginn's punt returns were an exception.

The San Francisco 49ers had high expectations for their special teams this season after a subpar 2009. Today, in the final part of our season review, we'll take a look at special teams.


The 49ers should have been better. They had hopes that Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie Kyle Williams would give them consistency in the return game, but neither fully panned out. Ginn ranked third in the NFL in punt returns (13.4-yard average, one touchdown) but was below the league average in kickoff returns (21.1), and Williams was a non-factor. He missed four games because of injury, was inactive for four others and didn't play in the final three games of the season. He averaged just 5.3 yards on three punt returns and 20.5 on four kickoff returns.

In league stats, the Niners ranked 29th in returning kickoffs and 29th in defending kickoffs – not the improvement they wanted.

Punter Andy Lee had another solid season, averaging 46.2 yards per punt to finish fourth in the league. He also had 34 punts inside the 20-yard line, third best in the NFL.

Veteran kicker Joe Nedney was 11 of 13 on field goals, including the game winner in overtime to beat the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 14. His only misses were from 40 and 52 yards. His season was cut short after the Rams game because of a bone bruise and strain in his right knee and he eventually was placed on injured reserve.

The 49ers signed another veteran, Jeff Reed, who had been released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Reed had an erratic season with the Steelers but was 9 of 10 in the Niners' last five games, with a best of 47 yards.

Nedney will be 38 years old in March and said in training camp that he's been struggling with a persistent groin injury for some time. The 49ers may have to decide whether to bring him back or consider signing Reed, who seemed to put his troubles in Pittsburgh behind him.

Grade: C-minus.

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