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Youth Helps Sink Packers in Special Teams Rankings

With a lot of fresh faces, the Green Bay Packers are bad in almost every phase of special teams.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers have a first-year coordinator on special teams.

They have a rookie punt returner. A question mark at kickoff returner. A first-year long snapper with two games of experience. An end-of-camp change at punter.

No wonder the Packers have one of the worst special teams in the NFL.

Ben Kotwica, a two-time NFL special teams coordinator, posted his midseason special teams rankings for The 33rd Team. Led by first-time coordinator Maurice Drayton, the Packers are 25th.

Green Bay is a hot mess in most phases.

Field goal: Last year, Mason Crosby was one of two kickers to make every field-goal attempt. This year, with a new snapper and holder, only one kicker is worse than Crosby’s 66.7 percent success rate. “We have to be good. We have to be right. We have to be automatic every time we take the field,” Crosby said.

Said Drayton: “I tell young men all the time, they come here and they say, ‘Hey, practice makes perfect.’ Well, it doesn’t. Practice makes permanent. So, we need to have good practice reps over and over and over again so we can permanently get to where we feel comfortable in our operation, in our timing.”

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Kickoff return: Green Bay’s average starting field position after a kickoff is the 24.2-yard line. Rookie running back Kylin Hill opened the season as the returner but suffered a season-ending knee injury. His replacement, receiver Malik Taylor, is out with an abdominal injury.

Kickoff coverage: The opponents’ average starting point after a kickoff is the 26.0-yard line.

Punt return: Green Bay ranks 29th with an opponent net average of 43.3 yards. Rookie returner Amari Rodgers, who had a nightmare performance at Kansas City, is averaging 6.6 yards per return. He does have four returns of 15-plus yards; the Packers didn’t have one longer than 11 yards last year.

Rodgers plays like he’s fast when, really, he’s only got average speed.

“The natural tendency for a rookie returner a lot of times is to try to catch a corner or catch an edge, because in college, quite frankly, you’re so much faster than a lot of your opponents,” Drayton said. “It’s that process of understanding that we’re in the National Football League and everybody’s pretty fast, so you want to stay on that return track, hit the return where it’s supposed to be and maximize your yardage.”

Punt coverage: Corey Bojorquez is the saving grace. He is No. 1 in the league with a 44.3-yard net average. Last year, JK Scott was 28th with a 37.0-yard net. Bojorquez’s 31 punts have yielded 90 return yards.

Of note, Kotwica mentioned the top five special teams have coordinators with an average of 10 years of experience. The bottom five teams have coordinators with an average 2.5 years of experience.

On Sunday, the Packers will play at Minnesota. The Vikings’ special teams rank 16th. Punt returner Dede Westbrook is a weapon with an 8.0-yard average and kicker Greg Joseph is 19-of-23 on field goals, including 5-of-6 from 50-plus yards.

Packers-Vikings Reasons to Worry