Return game especially puzzling

The Green Bay Packers have been an enjoying a nearly picture perfect season. The offense is humming. The defense is stopping opponents despite injuries to a handful of starters. Special teams? Uh-um. How bout that Brett Favre!<p>

The Packers need something, anything out of special teams for this season to be truly special but thus far have gotten very little. While the coverage units have improved somewhat from disasterous preseason and early season performances, the punt and kickoff return teams still linger in the bottom half of the league.

The Packers are ranked 31st our of 32 teams in punt returns with an average of just 4.0 yards per return. Green Bay is 22nd in kickoff returns among league teams with an average of 20.8 yards per return.

Darrien Gordon came to Green Bay last July as the final piece to the big puzzle. Gordon's signing came about a month after the Packers inked Hardy Nickerson and a couple months after Joe Johnson received a boatload of money. Like Nickerson and Johnson, the Packers have gotten little in return for their investment.

Gordon led the NFC in punt return average last year but has only broke free for any decent yards a few occasions. His longest runback of the season is 27 yards. While Gordon has not been able to give the Packers decent field position on a consistent basis, he has not turned the ball over by dropping any punts.

The kickoff return game has gotten a few sparks from rookies Javon Walker and Najeh Davenport, but you never get a feeling that they can run it back on any one kickoff.

Packers coach/GM Mike Sherman is just as puzzled as to why the Packers have been unable to pick it up on special teams, but it's not because he and special teams coach Frank Novak aren't trying.

"From the beginning of the season till right now the coverage units have improved dramatically," said Sherman. "We were going against a pretty good return team the other day (against Detroit) and I thought we faired fairly well. We had a major emphasis put on our return game last week in practices and meetings. It certainly didn't show on the football field. We didn't have great returns on either side, whether it was kickoff return or punt return. It's something that I addressed, will continue to address and something that I feel needs to improve.

"In all fairness to Darrien Gordon, I don't know if he's had enough opportunities to do very much. We have not done a great job of blocking on that for whatever reason. I know I sound like a broken record. I don't often have to repeat things that we have to get better. We usually get them fixed. We haven't got them fixed yet and we need to. There will be a major emphasis this week."

The Packers started this week by signing punt returner J.J. Moses to the team's practice squad. If anything, it may serve as a wakeup call to Gordon.

If the Packers can get their return games going on special teams, they will have a very good chance at securing homefield advantage for the playoffs this season. If special teams continues to be mediocre, the Packers may have to hit the road in the postseason.

But, hey, how 'bout that Brett Favre!


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