49ers vs. Panthers: Ted Ginn Jr. improves as receiver, regresses as returner with new team

Mike Ehrmann

Do the San Francisco 49ers have anything to fear in the Carolina Panthers' return game?

The San Francisco 49ers elected to part ways with Ted Ginn Jr. this offseason, and the Carolina Panthers were more than happy to scoop him up. Ginn's carer as a 49er ended with 33 receptions for 384 yards and a touchdown on the offensive side of the ball. Ginn has already eclipsed both the yardage and touchdown marks with the Panthers this season.

Ginn has 21 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns with the Panthers. He was pretty effective early on, but ultimately doesn't mean a whole lot to that offense. Still, he's done more there than he ever did in San Francisco, so kudos to either the Carolina coaching staff or the crack team of scientists that figured out a way to make his gloves sticky without the NFL's detection.

With the 49ers, Ginn had much more impact in the return game. He had over 1,000 return yards and two touchdowns fielding punts, and over 2,000 yards and one touchdown returning kickoffs.

But unlike his "resurgence" as a wide receiver, Ginn hasn't managed to replicate his success in the return game. He has just 12 punt returns for 100 yards and 11 kickoff returns for 272 yards. Neither stat is all that worrisome. Ginn shies away from contact more than he did before but really, there's just a lot of touchbacks in the NFL and he calls for an awful lot of fair catches, as well.

Maybe Ginn goes crazy and gauges the 49ers for big yards on returns, but I don't see it. While he has 12 punt returns, the team with the most punt return yardage in the league -- Kansas City -- has over 30 returns from their primary returner. The Panthers simply don't do much in their return game.

As fun fact, the 49ers have had six different players field kickoffs this season, for a total of 358 yards, while Kyle Wiliams has handled just 12 punts himself. So the 49ers place a slightly bigger emphasis on kickoff returns -- they take the ball out of the endzone more -- but similarly play it safe with punt returns.

So if I had to describe either team's ability to return the ball on special teams ... in just one word ... it would be "eh." It is what it is.

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