The 49ers have consistently struggled on special teams for a long time. The lack of the additional ten or fifteen yards to start off the offense, and the inability to set the other teams back as far has placed the 49ers into an awkward position more than once.
The addition of Ted Ginn Jr. last season for a fifth round draft pick was well worth it to bolster the special teams. The former All-American first round draft pick ran a respected 4.28 in the forty at the combine, but never lived up to the expectations with the Miami Dolphins. During the 2010 season Ginn generated more threat than fire.
Drafting All-Pac 10 first and second team punt returner Kyle Williams in the 6th round last year made perfect sense. His college accolades indicated that he could be a solid and consistent contributor to the special teams. However handling only a handful of returns, it was hard to see if he would be the specialist the 49ers need paired with Ginn.
The 49ers have been fortunate to have two of the best kickers in the NFL. Joe Nedney has posted an impressive 86.8 percent of field goals made over his 13 year career. This puts him as the second most accurate kicker in NFL history, and the most accurate kicker the 49ers have ever had. Andy Lee a two time Pro-Bowl player has established himself as one of the most productive punters in the NFL.
The breakdown in the special teams comes with a mixed bag. Subpar protection on our return teams, lots of poor or missed tackling opportunities on the kickoff team, and the lack of consistent quality runs by our returners. However, with the recent change in coaching staff comes a new opportunity.
Back on January 25th, the 49ers put the cornerstone of a quality special team into place by hiring Brad Seely. His 22 years of NFL special teams experience were punctuated his last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns where he coached the special teams into the 3rd best in the NFL according to some analysts. The former special team coach of the year has helped players like Joshua Cribbs, Michael Bates, and Clarence Verdin excel and succeed on special teams. Watch for Seely to start sealing the cracks in the special teams with his input in the draft in the later rounds, and implementing his proven coaching strategies. Watch this next season for some improvement over the 17th place ranking in special teams the 49ers achieved last season. As I have been saying all along watch for the 12-13 season when they will play the pivotal role in establishing clear dominance over the NFC west.