Pegged as my "biggest need going into 2010," the 49ers' kick returner position was vastly improved last year as opposed to 2009. What exactly does that entail? Well, it doesn't take much to reach that benchmark, as it happens. We could have put Fooch back there returning punts and he'd probably have done a better job than Arnaz Battle. The only caveat to that scenario is Andy Lee's restraining order, so that was out of the question.
In lieu of fielding Fooch, the 49ers had to settle for a trade, acquiring Ted Ginn Jr. from the Miami Dolphins. All we truly needed on Ginn was for him to come in, not fumble the ball, and perhaps occasionally gain yardage and keep the 49ers out of their own endzone. When we saw it was Ted Ginn that was coming to San Francisco, the expectations went up a little bit, Ted Ginn had the perception as one of the league's top kick returners, and at the very least appeared to be reliable fielding punts.
I'd say he fell short of what we came to expect of him once the season began. Ginn shied away from contact more so than before, and he became more of a one-cut kind of guy who was predictable for coverage units. On punt returns, I'm not even going to criticize. He hadn't done it in some time, and the 49ers were just so bad in that regard, Ginn being there was a huge upgrade.
Going forward, I wouldn't mind some competition at the position to improve it, but Ginn is still a reliable option. The 49ers special teams units seemed to struggle as a whole last year, as well - so one has to wonder if that's something that will be improved upon under the new special teams coordinator. One has to believe so, yes? They missed Michael Robinson, and they missed Scott McKillop. One of those guys will be coming back in 2011 (I think we all know who), and his presence could be huge in that regard. Ginn ran behind a group of guys thrown together, which, despite the perception many have, does not represent a majority of special teams units around the league.
So, confidence levels, then? This is for kicking and punting together, and I'm not going to get too in depth in explaining it. One does have to remember that there is a rule potentially being changed: moving the ball up five yards on kickoffs, which to me hurts Ted Ginn. He needs to pick up speed and gets things going overtime, whereas the new rule seems as though it will hinge on players' ability to get in between tacklers sooner rather than later to make big plays happen. To me, that drops my confidence in him down. We'll say the numbers are self explanatory this time. For reference, I'm at about a '7' here.