GREEN BAY, Wis. – New special teams coordinator, same results for the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers have been consistently bad on special teams, finishing 20th or worse in seven of the past nine seasons. That includes ranking 29th in 2020, 26th in 2019, 32nd in 2018, 29th in 2016 and 32nd in 2014. They have not fielded a top-10 unit since 2007.
So, Green Bay finishing last isn’t exactly out of the ordinary.
In the Gosselin rankings, the league’s 32 teams are ranked in 22 kicking-game categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for best, 32 for worst. The Baltimore Ravens, whose head coach, John Harbaugh, was once a special teams coordinator, finished No. 1 with their eighth top-five ranking in the past nine seasons.
Green Bay was all-around bad. The Packers finished 32nd in average starting field position following a kickoff, 26th in opponent starting field position after a kickoff, 20th in net punting average, 24th in opponent net punting average and 31st in field-goal accuracy.
Nonetheless, Drayton likes where his units are headed into Saturday’s playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Though he missed a kick at Detroit, Mason Crosby seems to have gotten through a protracted midseason slump, the punt-return unit has been strong and the coverage teams have improved.
“That third quarter of the season is when we really hit a slump and we started having things happen to us on the regular that quite frankly can’t happen,” Drayton said. “But over the last three weeks, we’re definitely trending up.”
That third quarter of the season included the Packers giving up a punt-return touchdown against Chicago – one of only two in the entire league this season – and a disastrous performance at Kansas City in which Crosby missed one field goal and had another blocked, and a muffed punt handed the Chiefs three points.
At one point, Crosby had at least one missed field goal in six out of eight games. But over the final five games, he made all seven field-goal attempts and 18-of-19 extra points. David Moore had a 21-yard punt return in Week 17 and Amari Rodgers had a 23-yard punt return in Week 18. That phase has produced five returns of 15-plus yards over the final nine games, with a schematic emphasis providing results.
“I think it starts with the pressures,” Drayton said. “If they’re worried about your pressures they put an emphasis on protection. If there’s an emphasis on protection, they’re not getting out as fast so time at the line of scrimmage equals yardage gained. And then the most important thing is those two guys on the outside, those corners. If they’re able to hold up their gunners, you have a chance to get the return started.”
Click here for the rest of the rankings, including where the 49ers finished.