The Green Bay Packers will go into their week one game with the Philadelphia Eagles with receiver Jordy Nelson and cornerback Tramon Williams as their primary return men after cutting safety Will Blackmon, Saturday.
Nelson will return kicks and Williams will return punts. Running back Brandon Jackson will also be in the mix as a kick returner and perhaps most surprisingly, receiver Greg Jennings was also mentioned by coach Mike McCarthy as a potential punt returner.
“I feel good about the returners that we are working,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to compete on special teams and we’re going to give our football team the opportunity to play with good field position. All of the work that we have done in the offseason in training camp, it’s about putting the returner in a position to be successful. We’ll make sure we have the best guy back there with the football.”
While all four players are capable, using them as returners puts the Packers in a precarious position should any one of them get injured, particularly starters Williams or Jennings. The Packers may have solid depth at receiver, but they do not at cornerback, where Williams followed by rookie Sam Shields and second-year man Brandon Underwood.
Should Williams go down returning a punt, Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee will be seeing more of the field than probably anyone other than the Packers’ opponents would like.
On the flip side, these are the best options the Packers have.
In his career, Williams has averaged 13.3 yards per punt return with longs of 94 yards in 2007 and 45 yards in 2009. Nelson has averaged 23.4 yards on kick returns in his career, with a long of 54 yards in 2009 and 45 yards in 2008. Jackson has averaged only 18 yards per kickoff return on two career returns and Jennings averaged only 5.8 yards on five career punt returns — all in 2006.