It’s not the most pressing question on your mind as you look at the clock, watching your weekend inch ever closer. No, the most pressing question is probably something more like, “What am I going to eat and/or drink tonight?” But the San Francisco 49ers don’t have a punt returner, and using some of their few remaining cap dollars on Adam Snyder probably isn’t going to help.
Nobody wanted to keep Ted Ginn around, including the 49ers themselves. Now that he’s gone, it’s time to find someone comparable (or better, preferably) at the role he vacated. That’s not as easy as it sounds. Ginn wasn’t perfect during his time in San Francisco, but he was more dependable than anyone else on the roster when it came to catching punts, holding onto the ball during the return and gaining some yards along the way. Here’s who’ll vie for his spot.
The favorite since he has the most experience, but forget the painful history — can or should the 49ers expect him to return punts or kicks after recovering from a torn ACL? He’d probably like to do whatever he can in his contract year to inflate his value, but the 49ers aren’t just going to hand him the role of No. 1 punt returner, no questions asked.
He returned 15 punts for 139 yards and a touchdown at Oregon in 2011, but I’ve heard that he was very hesitant to take on the responsibility of returning punts for the 49ers at Candlestick Park (I’ve heard it’s windy there). Maybe his tune will change going into his second season, but he probably has enough to worry about with trying to move ahead of Kendall Hunter on the depth chart.
This would be a smart way to ease him back into competitive football … sorry, couldn’t resist. We’ll see if anybody takes the bait in the comments on this one, but I’m 100% joking with this one.
This cornerback from Rutgers was the last player the 49ers drafted, so if he wants to make the team he might need to get creative. Luckily, he runs a sub-4.50 40-yard dash. He also only returned one punt in his college career for one yard, so …
The man who reminds Jim Harbaugh of himself has some experience returning punts, but it isn’t necessarily good experience (13 returns for 27 yards in 2011).
This undrafted free agent from Richmond, CA returned two punts for 40 yards at Utah State and returned several kickoffs in both of his seasons with the Aggies. Jacobs has decent speed and prototypical size (6-0, 178) for a returner.
The guy who made everyone say “who?” when he was made active during the playoffs is still on the roster, and he has returned 10 punts in his NFL career for 107 yards. Good darkhorse candidate here.
He doesn’t have experience returning punts, but he is a former track star who Jim Harbaugh has spoke highly of.
In 2010 he returned three punts for seven yards and fumbled once. Not exactly a great option.
He was a decent kick returner as a freshman at Illinois, but that part of his game pretty much went away over the next three years. He never returned a punt in college, and when I watched him try to catch “punts” from the machine during training camp he had mixed results (more than one drop that I saw, and I was only watching a small part of one practice). But if Jenkins wants to turn things around in the eyes of his coaches he could do worse than working on this part of his game. He’s fast enough to make a mark as a punt returner, but unless he improves his hands and shows a willingness to do it, it’s a longshot we’ll hear “Jenkins is back to receive” anytime soon.
In other words, this situation is WIDE open. While a lot of attention has been paid to the coverage units since the Super Bowl, with the signing of Dan Skuta in particular, who replaces Ginn is going to be one of the bigger stories in training camp for a team that’s pretty well set at almost every other position.