Special teams making strides

On Sunday at Detroit, Dave Rayner and Jon Ryan kicked well, the coverage units were superb and Koren Robinson flashed his skills as a kickoff returner.

The Green Bay Packers' offense was shut out in Week 1 but has scored 27 and 31 points the last two weeks.

With that said, the unit that has made the biggest strides in this young season is the special teams.

For the third straight week, the Packers faced a dynamic kick returner. On Sunday, Detroit's Eddie Drummond averaged 6.5 yards on four punt returns and 23.4 yards on five kickoff returns.

Rookie punter Jon Ryan, who had a punt returned for a touchdown against Chicago in Week 1, averaged 49.6 yards on five punts with a net of 40.4. His one touchback, early in the fourth quarter, would have been downed inside the 5-yard line had Brady Poppinga not decelerated and the ball skip ahead of him and into the end zone.

Ryan's prior punt, in the final minute of the third quarter, was a gem. With the line of scrimmage Green Bay's 47, Ryan boomed a punt inside the 5-yard line that was foolishly fielded by Drummond. Drummond returned the ball past the 15, but Jarrett Bush, one of the Packers' gunners, beat his blockers downfield and created an illegal-block penalty. Because of his hustle, the Lions took over at their 2-yard line.

Another newcomer also made a nice hustle play in kick coverage. On the opening kickoff of the second half, Vernand Morency blew past the Lions' wedge and tackled Drummond at the 16-yard line. If Morency hadn't made the tackle by looping around the right side, Ahmad Carroll and others were waiting on the left.

The most notable newcomer, of course, is Koren Robinson, who flashed his Pro Bowl skills by running back three kickoffs for a 28-yard average.

"I feel it, I feel it coming. I feel like everybody's getting used to everybody," said Robinson, who averaged only 18.3 yards on three kickoffs returns in his Packers debut last week. "They're getting used to me back there returning, and I'm getting used to the guys blocking."

Robinson returned the opening kickoff 30 yards, getting a nice block from Donald Lee — who had a team-high two special-teams tackles along with a big 32-yard catch to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown — and stepping through a tackle attempt to pick up an extra 9 yards.

"I feel like we're going to have a big return soon," Robinson said.

Kicker Dave Rayner had three touchbacks last week but none on Sunday. Still, even with one big return by Drummond, the Lions' average starting position after six kickoffs was just the 24-yard line. Three of Rayner's six kickoffs went in the end zone, and the other three were fielded at the 4-, 3- and 1-yard lines.

By contrast, even with two kickoffs by Detroit's Jason Hanson being touchbacks, the Packers' average start after the Lions' five kickoffs was the 26-yard line.

Charles Woodson hasn't showed any big-play skills as a punt returner, but he is smooth and reliable fielding the ball — unlike failed fourth-round pick Cory Rodgers — and he generally picks up at least a handful of yards. He averaged 8.0 yards on three returns Sunday.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.

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