Category Archives: Special Teams

Articles about the Green Bay Packers Football team – Special Teams

29

July

DuJuan Harris could bring some nasty to Packers kickoff return unit

DuJuan Harris bike

This picture of Packers RB DuJuan Harris carrying a little girls’ pink bike to practice on Monday is making the rounds online. I thought it would be funny to pair this sweet picture with my post about how violent and nasty of a runner Harris could be on kickoffs.

After three days of Packers training camp practices, it appears DuJuan Harris will be given an opportunity to win the kick returner job.

It’s way too early for anybody to get a sense of who has the advantage in contested position battles, but the thought of Harris returning kicks intrigues me in an old-school football sort of way.

Harris packs 200-plus pounds onto his 5-foot-8 frame and runs like a burning man sprinting for a nearby lake. A “rolling ball of butcher knives” was the phrase an NFL scout used to describe Harris in a Bob McGinn game review story a few years back.

I want to see Harris take a kick five yards deep in the end zone, build up a head of steam, and plow straight into the first guy who tries to tackle him. If Harris hits a pile of tacklers forming a wall to bring him down, my money is on the wall moving backward before Harris hits the turf.

The NFL has tried to make kick returns safer in recent years. To me, trying to tackle Harris after he’s been charging ahead for 15 yards seems anything but safe.

Harris is the type of player who will bring some violence to the Packers kick return unit and make people who remember what kickoffs were like 10, 15 or 20 years ago smile and nod their heads.

Of course, Harris is coming back after missing last season with a knee injury and various other ailments. Perhaps the promise he showed at the end of 2012 will be long gone.

The former used car salesman deserves a chance, though. With Eddie Lacy and James Starks slotted as the top two running backs, kick returns might be Harris’s best shot at carving out a significant role on this team.

——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

——————

---- Get AddToAny
30

June

The Returning Question: Who Will Be Kickoff and Punt Return Men for the Packers in 2014?

Will Packers rookie Jared Abbrederis be the featured return man in 2014? (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Will Packers rookie Jared Abbrederis be the featured return man in 2014? (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

When the Green Bay Packers drafted Randall Cobb in the second round of the 2011 draft, it appeared they had their kickoff and punt returner of the future. However, his recent emergence in the offense necessitated others to handle the return duties.

Rookie defensive back Micah Hyde filled in admirably last season, but with his apparent increased role in defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ new look defense, and head coach Mike McCarthy’s traditional reluctance to use integral starters as returners, we might be looking at someone other than Hyde returning kicks this season.

So, here we are again asking a question we’ve asked several times before: who will be returning kickoffs and punts for the Packers in 2014?

Let’s take a look at the options.

Kickoffs

While no team will refuse a 100-yard kickoff return taken to the house, that is not the primary responsibility of returning a kickoff. The return man is responsible for securing good field position for the offense to begin a drive.

Over the years, in the interest of player safety, the NFL has revised kickoff rules several times. The kickoff line has been moved up, to encourage touchbacks, and the number of blockers allowed to form the wedge has been lowered to reduce violent player collisions. Essentially, by design, the kickoff itself no longer has the same potential to flip the field like a punt return or an interception return.

In other words, the need for a 4.3-second, 40-yard dash track athlete is no longer the most desirable trait in a potential kickoff returner. Simply making a man or two miss and breaking a tackle or two will suffice as long as he can advance the ball beyond the 25 yard line. Many coaches simply just want to get out of the kickoff without any injuries. Then, let the $100 million quarterback do his thing.

Going into training camp, I see the kickoff return competition being a three man race.

Likely Contenders

  • Micah Hyde. He was the featured returner for most of 2013. It has yet to be determined if Hyde will see an increased playing load in 2014, let alone crack the starting lineup at free safety. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix secures the starting free safety position, it’s likely we’ll see Hyde returning kicks again this season. If not, and Hyde starts on defense, it’s unlikely he will be the featured returner.
18

April

Should Packers Add Competition for Crosby?

Mason Crosby

Crosby bounced back in 2013. Will his success continue into 2014?

Green Bay Packers placekicker Mason Crosby is coming off of his best season in 2013, in terms of field goal percentage.  After facing the worst year of his career and posting the worst mark for a starting kicker in the NFL in 2012 (63.6%), Crosby finished 2013 at 89.2%.

He converted on 33 of 37 tries, seven of which were 50 yards or longer.  Crosby also made all 42 of his extra point attempts.

Still, let’s not forget some of the circumstances that Crosby faced to reach that success.

Entering the 2013 season, one had to search long and hard to find any amount of confidence that Crosby would bounce back from the horror that was 2012.  Towards the end of that year and any time Crosby lined up to kick a field goal, fans and media alike held their collective breath, hoping that the ball was at least somewhere near the crossbars.

That season, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts, Crosby kicked a ball so far off base that some wondered if he had hurt himself on the kick.

After the 2012 season, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy immediately began fielding questions about Crosby and his future with the team.  The head coach expressed frustration about the output from his kicker but seemed to be supporting Crosby throughout the offseason and preseason.  McCarthy has had a tendency to remain loyal to “his guys” and players that he is familiar with, even when those players are sometimes not performing to acceptable standards.

This appeared to be the case as Crosby entered training camp the lone placekicker on the roster.  Shortly after it seemed that Crosby was still struggling to find his groove, the team signed Giorgio Tavecchio to come in and compete with Crosby.

The left-footed Tavecchio actually out-kicked Crosby in terms of field goals made during practice and preseason games, but lacked the ideal leg strength to offer the complete package the Packers would have needed to move in another direction.

Tavecchio was cut (much to the chagrin of our own Jersey Al) and McCarthy seemed ready to ride or die with Crosby in 2013.  Crosby didn’t let his coach down.

28

February

Tim Masthay Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

 

Tim Masthay

Tim Masthay

1) Introduction:  Tim Masthay gets the job done. That’s probably the best way to describe him. He doesn’t drastically tilt the field with his powerful punts and pinpoint accuracy, but he does an adequate job. Masthay doesn’t give you much to leap out of your chair and cheer about, but he also doesn’t give you a reason to hurl your TV through the wall after consistently poor punts.

2) Profile:

Timothy James Masthay

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 4/16/1987 in Pittsburgh, Penn.
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 198
  • College: Kentucky
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4

Career stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Just keep doing what he does. Masthay has a lot of games where he punts in cold weather and his always hold up well.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Masthay’s net average has gotten better every season, topping off at 39.0 yards in 2013. He also notched 17 touchbacks on 34 kickoffs to start the season. If you’re looking for lowlights…well, it’s always a lowlight when Masthay comes on the field because it means the Packers are punting.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  Masthay’s consistency was a bright spot on an otherwise shaky special teams unit. If there was a special teams breakdown, it was rarely because of something Masthay screwed up.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Unfortunately, Masthay contributed too much and the Packers didn’t score enough points in their playoff loss.

Season Report Card:

(B) Level of expectations met during the season

(B-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(B) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  B

——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

——————

27

February

Mason Crosby Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

1) Introduction:  Packers kicker Mason Crosby saw his lucrative contract tore up over the offseason and replaced with an incentive-laden deal. Message received. Crosby connected on 33 of 37 field goal attempts and even sent two 57-yarders soaring through the uprights. If Johnny Jolly wasn’t on the roster, the Packers comeback player of the year award would have probably gone to Crosby.

Packers K Mason Crosby

Packers K Mason Crosby

2) Profile:

Mason Walker Crosby

  • Age: 29
  • Born: 9/3/1984 in Lubbock, Texas
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 212
  • College: Colorado
  • Rookie Year: 2007
  • NFL Experience: 7

Career stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Get beat out in training camp by the Italian guy with the cool name. Packers fans were done with Mason Crosby and were itching for somebody to replace him. Crosby outlasted Giorgio Tavecchio and went on to have a career season.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Crosby hit all five field-goal attempts with a long of 52 yards in week 5 against Detroit. He made his first 10 attempts and even hit 5 of 7 from beyond 50 yards after going 14 for 33 on attempts of 50 yards or more in his first six seasons. Crosby’s lowpoint came against the Eagles in week 10 where his missed kicks from 53 and 42 yards.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success:  The Packers comeback against the Cowboys might have fallen short if Crosby doesn’t nail a 57-yard field goal earlier in the game. Unlike in 2012, you can’t really point to a game where Crosby had an overly negative impact. Crosby took over again on kickoffs midway through the season. I guess the Packers prefer Crosby’s directional kicking over Tim Masthay’s powerful leg.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Crosby made both of his field goal attempts against the 49ers and was fine kicking the ball off.

Season Report Card:

(A) Level of expectations met during the season

(A-) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(B) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  A-

——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

——————

7

February

Packers Add Two New Coaches to Staff, Re-Assign Others

Packers special teams coach Ron Zook

The Packers will announce the hiring of Zook to coach special teams

The Green Bay Packers reportedly have added two new coaches to head coach Mike McCarthy’s staff.  As reported by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Ron Zook comes on as assistant special teams coach.  Zook replaces Chad Morton, who had been on McCarthy’s staff in that capacity since 2010.

Zook has been out of football for the past few years but most recently was head coach at the University of Illinois from 2005 – 2011.  Prior to that, Zook was head coach at the University of Florida.

Zook’s most recent NFL experience came as defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints in 2000 – 2001, where McCarthy was the offensive coordinator.

When this news broke earlier today, it was speculated that Zook would be taking the outside linebackers coaching spot, replacing Kevin Greene.  Silverstein’s report confirmed, however, that Zook will coach under Shawn Slocum, current special teams coordinator.

The Packers will also add Sam Gash as running backs coach.  Gash replaces Alex Van Pelt, who was promoted to quarterbacks coach upon the departure of Ben McAdoo last month.  Gash was the Detroit Lions’ running backs coach from 2008-12.

Gash played 12 years in the NFL with the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens.  He appeared in two Pro Bowls and was the first back selected to a Pro Bowl despite not having carried the ball that season.

UPDATE:  Here are all the coaching changes announced today: The Packers have named Winston Moss assistant head coach/linebackers, Alex Van Pelt quarterbacks coach, Scott McCurley assistant linebackers coach, Jason Simmons defensive/special teams assistant, John Rushing defensive quality control coach, Sam Gash running backs coach, Ron Zook assistant special teams coach, Luke Getsy offensive quality control coach and Chris Gizzi strength and conditioning assistant.

The Packers still have an apparent vacancy at the outside linebackers coaching spot.  The team may hire someone to fill Greene’s old position, promote from within or ask current inside linebackers and assistant head coach Winston Moss to absorb the role.

 

——————

Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

Follow Jason at:

Jason Perone
                Add to Circleson Google+

——————


13

January

McCarthy Shouldn’t Ignore Stats

Mike McCarthy

McCarthy says some head-scratching things at times, like last week when he said “stats are for losers”.

This past week, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gave his season-ending press conference.  I detailed some of his responses here.  One comment that he made still resonates with me.  When asked if he was going to look at the team’s injury situation and look into why so many Packers players were lost due to injury, part of McCarthy’s answer was that “stats are for losers.”  Now, in fairness, that wasn’t the entire response.

McCarthy went on to add that when one looks too far into stats, it can build false confidences and negatives.  He said they need to look beyond just the numbers to really determine what is going on.

That’s great and all and I know he doesn’t particularly enjoy talking to the media and especially when answering questions about some of the negative things that are going on.  I get the whole “Pittsburgh macho” thing that he’s going for the “we have it under control and you don’t know what’s really going on here” mantra.  But perhaps McCarthy forgets that we all own televisions or are sitting in the stands?  The fact of the matter is that the numbers DO matter.

If you ask any good CEO to evaluate a company’s health and describe what is going on, they’ll likely use stats.  Numbers are important.  They don’t tell the entire story but they are one of the primary illustrators of what is happening.  Many times I’ll ask someone what happened in a game and they’ll say “the box score doesn’t tell the whole story”.  Sure, it doesn’t measure things like energy level, enthusiasm or my personal favorite: toughness.  But more often than not, something can be drawn from the numerical recap.

I’m talking about more than just the Packers injury situation, although that is certainly something that the Packers need to look into.  15 players ended up on season-ending injured reserve this season and they did use the IR-Designated for return option on receiver Randall Cobb.  I get that football is a physical sport and that not all injuries are preventable.  Still and far too often, the Packers are seeing their players drop in bunches.  Is it amplified by the lack of depth behind the key players getting hurt or are there simply too many of them?  As I have said before, I am not sure but if you ask any consultant for their opinion on the matter, the first thing they’re going to look is. . the stats.