Position preview: Specialists

It's do or get cut for punter B.J. Sander

Punter B.J. Sander's job is anything but guaranteed. He will be challenged by rookie free agent Bryce Benekos during training camp. Sander used the NFL Europe season to hone his technique with so-so results. He led NFL-E in net average (36.6 yards per punt), but tied for fourth among punters in the six-team league with a gross average of 40.0-yard average.

The Packers will be auditioning Craig Nall and Aaron Rodgers as the holder for kicker Ryan Longwell. Despite never having held in a game at California, Rodgers looked like a natural in the minicamps, but Nall was rough around the edges during the team's off-season minicamps.

"Really, Rodgers showed us that he was poised, smooth and had good hands," special teams coach John Bonamego said. "He's just got to commit to working on it. It's a matter of a guy spending the time outside of practice with Ryan getting snaps and learning how to put the ball down in a consistent spot at the right angle where Ryan's comfortable with it.

"Last year, B.J. was really jerky. Kickers want to see a really smooth hold. (Bryan) Barker really was exceptional."

The plan is to use a quarterback to hold because of the uncertainty at punter.

Long snapper Rob Davis, 36, remains in control of his position. The backup, Grey Ruegamer, isn't bad, either.

Longwell, who has kicked at a Pro Bowl level despite the often nasty conditions in Lambeau Field, is entering the final year of his contract. Longwell won four games for the Packers last year with last-second field goals.

Antonio Chatman has been reliable as a punt returner the last two seasons, but that's about it. He rarely drops or fumbles the ball, but he has yet to spark the Packers with a punt return for a touchdown in 65 returns (45 fair catches) over the past two seasons. Chatman also has returned 61 kickoffs for the Packers in two seasons but has not scored a touchdown.

With that in mind, the Packers are hoping wide receiver Craig Bragg, a sixth-round pick in this year's draft, or second-round pick Terrence Murphy will push Chatman to return punts and kickoffs. Bragg was UCLA's primary punt and kickoff returner.

Projected specialists: Ryan Longwell (K), B.J. Sander (P), Rob Davis (LS), Antonio Chatman (PR), Terrence Murphy (KR)
Longwell is a lock at kicker. Sander has to show something this preseason, or get cut. Same with Chatman, who will be pushed by Murphy for the fourth wide receiver/return specialist position on the team.


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