Mapping out NFC North return men

September, 7, 2010
Among the late-developing storylines of Week 1 has been the identities of NFC North kickoff and punt returners. Few of our teams have established players in those roles, and one of them -- the Minnesota Vikings -- traded away their top option last weekend. So based on what coaches and players have said this week, here is our best guess for each role:

Chicago Bears
Danieal Manning or Johnny Knox
Comment: Manning is a bruising, full-speed returner. Knox had a 102-yard return last season, but the Bears probably want to protect him.
Punts: Devin Hester
Comment: Once the best in the NFL, Hester hasn't had a touchdown in two years.

Detroit Lions
Kickoffs: Stefan Logan or Aaron Brown
Comment: Logan, claimed on waivers over the weekend, averaged 26.7 yards per kickoff return for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season. He had four returns of 40 or more yards.
Punts: Logan
Comment: Averaged 9.3 yards per return last season.

Green Bay Packers
Jordy Nelson
Comment: He's sure-handed and productive but not necessarily a breakaway threat. Twenty-five of his 36 career returns have gone for more than 20 yards, but longest is 54.
Punts: Tramon Williams
Comment: An excellent open-field runner but a risk given his role as a starting cornerback.

Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin
Comment: Was excellent last season until teams started kicking away from him. Averaged 30.7 yards per return in first half of season and 21.1 yards in second half.
Punts: Bernard Berrian or Greg Camarillo
Comment: Berrian returned a punt 82 yards for a score during a limited tenure in this role two years ago. Camarillo is sure-handed.



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