Besides the #2 WR spot, the other starter position wide open is the second kick returner. Besides, Kyle Williams, there is no obvious choice in the current roster, and it is unknown if the coaches want to rely on Kyle all season long as punt returner. To get some idea on the kick/punt return experience of the current roster, I decided to check the NFL career return stats for the KR/PR candidates on the team, and check if they had any punt return experience in college. I decided not to include college KR stats, as it is a position much easier to fill from the roster.
|Punt Returns||KO returns||College Punt Returns|
The numbers explain why Harbaugh was so adamant defending KDub's punt return skills. In college and the NFL, he lined up to receive a punt over 200 times. KW also likes to fair catch the ball, which is not so good. Chad Hall is also a valid punt returner, and more inclined to carry the ball back. Besides three token carries by Cox , the rest of the team has no punt return experience in the NFL. Cox was the other feature returner in college, while James, Moore and Patton had more than a token number of carries.
Minicamp reports on return practice:
Perrish Cox fielded a wind-blown punt while others who attempted to do the same were LaMichael James, Chad Hall, Quinton Patton and B.J. Daniels - Inman
Perrish Cox, Chad Hall, Kyle Williams, LaMichael James, B.J. Daniels and Quinton Patton all received time as kick and punt returners. Cox and Hall each had one muff while Williams, Patton and James looked the best. - Gin
Kyle Williams joined the punt return drills to work on his ball-catching skills. Williams joined Perrish Cox, LaMichael James, Chad Hall, B.J. Daniels and Quinton Patton in the punt return drill.- Price
The team worked on kick returns today and Ricardo Lockette, Perrish Cox, LaMichael James, A.J. Jenkins, Quinton Patton and B.J. Daniels all had chances as the kick returner. James looked the best of the bunch while Jenkins and Cox each muffed the kickoff once. - Gin
Lockette’s burst of speed on a kickoff return drew a "Whoo!" from linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who observed from the sideline. Those return drills opened with Perrish Cox unable to catch a kick in the windy conditions. - Inman
LaMichael James, B.J. Daniels, Chad Hall and Perrish Cox all had looks as punt returners. James looked the best out of the four. - Gin
The three shortest players on the roster, LaMichael James, Chad Hall and Daniels, returned punts. James is back after straining his hamstring last week. - Barrows
It is way early before the training camp starts, but the competition is apparently wide open between the mentioned guys, and only LMJ and Patton are guaranteed a roster spot. I am surprised Moore and Jacobs did not get a look. The rookie CBs signed (Cooper, Rose, Morris) have no demonstrated punt return skills , which does not help their case to make the roster. Lockette seems to be looked at as kick returner only. If I have to guess, the second kick/punt returner would be LMJ - we'll see who will get most of the punt returns in the preseason games.