How rest of NFC North special teams stack up

Snapshot preview of Green Bay Packers' division opponents' special teams

Minnesota Vikings
K Ryan Longwell, P Chris Kluwe, KR Maurice Hicks, PR Bobby Wade, LS Cullen Loeffler, K Steven Hauschka.

Longwell, entering his 12th season, remains a reliable kicker, having made 19 of 20 kicks from inside 49 yards last season. He also improved his distance on kickoffs, something that had been an issue in 2006.

The Vikings like Hauschka but he has little hope of making the roster and likely is around to make sure Longwell's leg doesn't get tired. Kluwe was rewarded with a contract extension last season and finished eighth among NFL punters with a 37-yard net average. What the Vikings like is that Kluwe has improved his directional punting.

Hicks was signed in large part because of his ability to return kicks but could be challenged by Allison, who led the NFC and ranked third in the NFL with a return average of 28.7 yards in 2007.

Wade and running back Mewelde Moore, who left to sign with Pittsburgh, shared punt-return duties last season. Wade averaged 7.0 yards on 16 returns and the Vikings might want to go in a different direction. Loeffler is an extremely reliable long snapper.

Chicago Bears
PK Robbie Gould, P Brad Maynard, RS Devin Hester, LS Patrick Mannelly.

Gould is consistent and, so far, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history.

Maynard is steady and the coverage units are outstanding.

Hester is simply the best, although his work may be scaled back a bit this year if he becomes a bigger factor as a receiver.

Mannelly is nearly invisible because he's so close to flawless.

Detroit Lions
K Jason Hanson, P Nick Harris, LS Don Muhlbach, K/P Paul Ernster.

Hanson, Harris and Muhlbach are a solid trio. The question marks in camp will surround the return game and coverage units.

Moore was drafted with his return skills in mind. Others will get a shot to win a job. The coverage units should be improved by the additions to the defense. Pearson is expected to be a leader on special teams.


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