Punting situation improves slightly

If Packers coach Mike Sherman wanted to learn something about his punt game, a third consecutive inept offensive performance provided ample opportunities.

The Packers' punting problems hardly cleared themselves up during Friday night's 9-7 loss at Jacksonville. Neither third-round draft pick B.J. Sander or the just-signed 40-year-old Bryan Barker wowed anyone. But they weren't horrible, either, which made Friday night's punt-a-thon at least somewhat encouraging.

"They certainly didn't hurt us. They helped us on occasion," Sherman said after the game. "B.J. had one backed-up punt that he knocked past midfield. Barker had a good punt. So I feel encouraged but we have a ways to go."

Sander and Barker alternated punts throughout the game, and both wound up having four attempts. Barker averaged 41.5 yards per punt with two touchbacks while Sander averaged 39.3 yards per punt with a touchback. None of the three touchbacks were egregious errors by the punters. Barker's first punt, for example, had plenty of hangtime and bounced at the 5-yard line but no Packers managed to get down the field to keep the ball out of the end zone.

"Our gunners need to do a better job of covering the punts . They were nonexistent tonight and we need to do a better job there," Sherman said.

Neither punter had a terrible kick, a problem that had plagued Sander in the first two preseason games as well as the Family Night scrimmage. Sander's punts traveled 40, 36, 39 and 42 yards. The Jaguars' David Allen, college football's top returnman last season, averaged only 2.7 yards on his four runbacks.

"I thought it was an improvement, no question about that. ... I thought both punters did an OK job but we'll just keep working on that," Sherman said.

As for the rest of the special teams, they weren't special.

After a busy game against the Saints last week, Ryan Longwell did not attempt a field goal, with the Packers passing up a 52-yard try to go for it on fourth-and-6 in the first quarter. He kicked off twice, with the opening kickoff a squib and his second kickoff, coming after the Packers' lone touchdown of the preseason, coming down at the 3-yard line.

Punt returner Antonio Chatman continued to have a rocky preseason fielding the ball. While he continues to be a bright spot at wide receiver, Chatman has made one bad judgment after another in the three preseason games as well as the scrimmage. Against Jacksonville, he had a chance for a fair catch near midfield but apparently misjudged the ball, which landed over his head and rolled about 20 yards downfield. His only return, in which he had no blocking, went 3 yards.

Rookie first-round pick Ahmad Carroll returned two kickoffs for 40 yards. He bobbled his second opportunity at the goal line and managed to get the ball out to just the 17-yard line. Wide receiver Carl Ford, who is in danger of not making the team after a stellar training camp last fall, returned a kickoff 23 yards.

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