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.
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21

December

Packers Playbook (aka Hobbjective Analysis): Week 15 at Chicago Bears

So special teams is one of those things that no fan knows about but we all love to gripe about.  For instance, other than the kicker, punter, long snapper and gunner, do you know the name of any other position?  I sure don’t but I will yell at the screen when the guy misses a block.  This is essentially what happened during the “punt, pass and puke” play as quoted by Drew Olsen on Green and Gold Today.  We all know it was a terrible play, and head coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum both got plenty of heat for the call.  But why call the play in the first place?

 

 

 

The Situation: The score is Green Bay 21, Chicago 10 with 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  The Packers are sitting pretty well at the moment, the Bears offense hasn’t been able to move the ball (i.e. failing to convert a single 3rd down) while the Packers have had success both on the ground as well as in the air and look to burn some time with a two score lead.

Snap: The Packers come out with two players matching each gunner.  This is typically done to give the punt returner some more space on the edges but they give up any real chance of blocking the punt as well as being overmatched in the middle

The Kick: This picture was taking immediately after the kick, as you can see the Packers didn’t get anywhere close to blocking P Adam Podlesh’s punt (the closest Packers is 5 yards away and has already turned for pursuit).  I’ve circled WR Jeremy Ross (10) so keep an eye out for him as the play progresses.

Fielding The Punt: You can now see PR Randall Cobb (18) relative to WR Ross, also notice at this point, Ross still appears to be blocking the gunner.

Beginning of Trick Play: At this point WR Ross begins to peel away from the action and get ready for the lateral.  Also notice at this point no Bear has noticed that WR Ross is doing something other than blocking the gunner

The Lateral: This is just before PR Cobb makes the lateral pass.  Notice the vast majority of Bears players are still heading towards PR Cobb.