Last week against the New Orleans Saints, the 49ers split punt return duties between Ronald Johnson and Kyle Williams. Ted Ginn Jr. handled punt returns in 2010 and did a masterful job. He finished the season averaging 13.4 yards per punt return, which was good for third in the league among qualified players (at least 16 returns).
It's entirely possible Ginn is simply working on the receiving side of things in games and will be ready to go as the lead punt returner in 2011. Matt Barrows seemed to think Ginn would be in place as the number one return man when week one gets here.
In the meantime, given Ginn's occasional limitations when it comes to catching the ball, it wouldn't surprise me if the 49ers were hoping one of their younger players would be able to step up in a return role. Such a move would provide the team with some flexibility when it comes time to decide on Ginn's roster spot.
Of course, if Ginn can turn his 2011 practice success into on-field success, maybe that buys him this final year of his contract? He'll need to show he can be a consistent wide receiver threat and not a guy whose hands the team has to worry about week in and week out. He had four drops last season and twelve receptions on 35 targets. There's not a whole lot we can do with those limited samples. Last week he was on the field but didn't have any passes come his way. We'll just have to keep an eye out this week to see what kind of success he has.
Do you see having some sort of receiving success in 2011? Do you even see him making the 53-man roster?