After their kickoff return unit performed well in the three season-opening games, coach Mike McCarthy has decided to stick with Jordy Nelson as his returner despite last week's two turnovers.
Among players with eight kickoff returns — two per game — Nelson ranks 14th with a 24.3-yard average per runback. He's tied for fifth with 11 returns of 20-plus yards.
"We have things to build on," Nelson said. "I think that's maybe one reason why I'm still back there. The guys up front have been doing a great job. I just need to continue to do what I was doing and not put the ball on the ground and keep putting our offense in a good situation, out at the 30, 35 and even 40 and beyond. Hopefully, that continues, and we'll get a big one."
Nelson had lost one fumble during his first two NFL seasons — on the opening kickoff at Detroit last year — then coughed it up twice last week against the Lions. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum wants Nelson to concentrate more on running with the ball higher and tighter against his body, which is the technique the Packers' coaches teach and a big reason why they've been been so good at holding onto the ball during McCarthy's tenure.
"Obviously, there's a reason why everyone wants it there," Nelson said, recalling the Giants' Tiki Barber putting his fumbling problems behind him once he became more conscious of ball control. "When he did that, he fixed his problem. I do need to do that, but I think part of the kickoff return (is) trying to get going (after he catches the ball), so you're really pumping your arms and whatnot to get going because it is hard to run with one arm strapped to your chest. But, yeah, once I get going and get into people, I need to pull it up, keep it tight and keep it to the outside away from all of the defenders."
Fumbles tend to beget fumbles. Like sharks to blood, one sniff of a fumbler means opposing teams are going to be going for the ball. Nelson will have to be aware of that against Washington, which is plus-3 this season in turnovers.
"A lot of that is more on the strip attempts," Nelson said. "Obviously, these weren't strip attempts. These were just getting hit and the ball coming out. But, yeah, you see with Adrian Peterson, that's all they ever talk about. It is an emphasis. If people put the ball on the ground, everyone knows it, and if you're running and they have you held up a little bit, they're going to be pulling at the ball. Once you get held up, two hands instantly go (around the ball), and I think that's a little easier to hold onto than just getting hit and it coming out."
And if those two hands don't go around the ball and he fumbles again, Pat Lee is next in line.
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