Position analysis: Special teams

PackerReport.com's Todd Korth continues his position analysis series today with a look at the Green Bay Packers' special teams. The revamped units will feature a new kicker this season and most likely a new punter. The punt and kickoff returners probably will be new as well.

Projected kicker: Billy Cundiff

Projected punter: Jon Ryan

Projected long snapper: Rob Davis

Projected punt returner: Greg Jennings

Projected kickoff returners: Greg Jennings, Ahmad Carroll

Reserve returners: Robert Ferguson, Cory Rodgers, Najeh Davenport, Samkon Gado

Green Bay's special teams, in dire need of rejuvenation, will have nearly a complete overall when the Packers open the season in September. The Packers have nowhere to go but up in many areas. The Packers ranked last in the league in kickoff return average (18.9 yards per return) in 2005 and were 12th overall in punt return average (8.5 yards per return). B.J. Sander, in his second season with the team and first as the full-time punter, struggled as the weather turned colder in Green Bay.

Ryan Longwell, the one shiny spot of special teams in recent seasons, left via free agency for Minnesota where he received a five-year, $10 million deal. The Packers are hoping to replace Longwell with either Billy Cundiff or Dave Rayner, both free agent pickups over the off-season.

While all of the leading candidates for special teams have been in Green Bay working out this off-season, the Packers will have to wait until they play some preseason games in August to determine who will stay and who will go, especially at kicker and punter.

"We've been looking at them since March 20," McCarthy said. "We've been charting every kick the whole off-season.

"It's going to be a process that will take some time. We'll let it run its course and the best man win the job."

The same can be said for punter, though, Ryan appears to have the edge on Sander. Ryan's strong leg has been obvious during the recent mini-camp and Organized Team Activities practices. If he can continue in training camp, look for the Packers to release Sander, who has been a bust in Green Bay since he was drafted in the third round in 2004.

Rookie second-round pick Greg Jennings has been taking most of the punts during practices this off-season. He has the inside track at returning punts over rookie fourth-round pick Cory Rodgers, though, that could change as well in training camp based on performance.

If Jennings and Rodgers struggle returning kicks, the Packers will fall back on wide receiver Robert Ferguson, cornerback Ahmad Carroll, or running backs Najeh Davenport or Samkon Gado. Except for Gado, all have returned kickoffs for the Packers in recent seasons.


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