NFC North Breakdown: Part III

In Detroit the Lions are hoping a veteran has one more year left, while the Packers and Vikings are dealing with new kickers. Here's an in depth look at the special teams outlook for each team in the division.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters -- PK Jason Hanson, P Nick Harris, LS Don Muhlbach, KOR Eddie Drummond and PR. Backups -- PR Dre' Bly, KOR Brian Calhoun.

Although Hanson is 36 years old and entering his 15th NFL season, special teams coach Chuck Priefer believes he is good for at least another one or two seasons. He is consistent on field goals and places the ball well on kickoffs. Harris is solid as Hanson's holder and led the NFL last season with 34 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Muhlbach, a two-year veteran once described by Lions president Matt Millen as "the Nolan Ryan of long snappers," is fast and accurate delivering the ball on punts, field goals and extra points. Drummond, a Pro Bowler in 2004, is coming off a subpar season in which he averaged only 6.0 yards on punt returns and 22.0 on kickoff returns, in part because he again battled injuries. Curry, Fox and FitzSimmons lead Priefer's coverage teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kickers -- Billy Cundiff, Dave Rayner. Punters -- B.J. Sander, Jon Ryan. Long snapper -- Rob Davis. Punt returners -- Cory Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson, Robert Ferguson. Kick returners -- Jennings, Samkon Gado, Najeh Davenport, Ahmad Carroll.

Two of the bigger battles in camp will involve the kickers and the punters. The Packers must replace their all-time leading scorer, Ryan Longwell, who pulled a Benedict Arnold and signed with division rival Minnesota in free agency. His proficiency notwithstanding, Longwell's rarely rivaled skill of handling inclement conditions late in the season is a huge loss. Dallas castoff Cundiff has a strong leg, but his accuracy (73.2 percent) isn't close to being in Longwell's league. Rayner, a onetime standout at Michigan State, handled kickoffs for Indianapolis last season but has attempted only one field goal in an NFL game. The competition will sort itself out in the preseason games, though another kicker could be added by the end of camp. As for the punters, Canadian Football League import Ryan outperformed incumbent Sander in the off-season workouts. Ryan's strength is his distance, but he must improve on his get-off and hang times to solidify the job. Sander, who doesn't have a strong leg, faces an uphill climb to earn a reprieve and try to make amends for his disastrous first season kicking last year. Whoever wins the punting battle likely will be the holder on kicks as well, although quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Ruvell Martin have been working on it. Rookies Cory Rodgers and Jennings factor heavily in the return game after the team didn't retain the pedestrian Antonio Chatman.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Ryan Longwell, P Chris Kluwe, John Torp, LS Cullen Loeffler, KR Koren Robinson, Mewelde Moore, Kevin Kasper, PR Moore.

Longwell joins the Vikings after spending his previous nine seasons as a member of the archrival Green Bay Packers. No question, he should benefit from kicking in a dome instead of the cold and blustery conditions of Lambeau Field. The Vikings will be looking for plenty of consistency from the relocated kicker after giving him a five-year, $10 million contract that reportedly included a $3 million signing bonus. Kluwe did not punt this offseason because of surgery he underwent on his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee after last season. That enabled Torp, a rookie free agent out of Colorado, to get all the work. Torp appeared as if he was working on his directional punting during the last minicamp. If the Vikings want a directional punter that might be bad news for Kluwe, who had a 44.1-yard gross average and 35.8-yard net average last season by simply booming the ball away. Who returns kicks for the Vikings remains a question mark. Robinson made the NFC Pro Bowl roster by averaging 26 yards and scoring a touchdown on 47 returns last season. He would like to continue in that role but that's unlikely since he will be the No. 1 receiver. That could mean Moore will return kicks and punts. Moore averaged 11.7 yards with a touchdown on 21 returns in 2005. Kasper, signed as a free agent, also could get a look on kick returns.

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