The 2021 season was a disastrous one for the Green Bay Packers’ special teams unit. The season was full of poor play from kicker Mason Crosby and punter Corey Bojorquez as well as poor coverage and blocking from other members of the special teams unit. A terrible season capped off by the special teams group essentially single handedly sending the Packers home in the divisional round of the playoffs, thanks to a blocked field goal and a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. Shortly after the season ended, the Packers parted ways with coordinator Maruice Drayton. A week later, they announced the hiring of Raiders interim head coach Rich Bisaccia to be the special teams coordinator for the team. This was arguably their best off season move as the difference in play from the 2021 season to the 2022 season were night and day and Bisaccia greatly improved the Packers’ special teams unit. Today we will look at each individual part of the special teams and compare their play from last season to this season and see the Bisaccia effect in all of its glory.
At the beginning of the season, I settled for an overall grade for the special teams unit. Today I will be taking a more indepth look at the performances by the Packers’ kicker, punter, kick returners, and then finally an overall grade for the unit as a whole to account for the coverage grades of the unit.
Mason Crosby had a down year in 2021, going 25 for 34 on field goals and 49 for 51 on extra points. Going into the 2022 season, the 38 year old kicker seemed to be on the hot seat, another bad season like his 2021 campaign and he would likely be cut from the team. Crosby controlled his own destiny in 2022. The 2022 season was a bounce back year for him, as he would go 25 for 29 on field goals, 3 of those misses from 50+ yards out, and 37 for 39 on extra points.
Crosby wasn’t the best kicker in the NFL by any means, and his age is definitely starting to show with his struggles from 50+ yards out; however he still had a much improved 2022 season, and his improved play means baring his retirement, the Packers likely won’t need to shop for a new kicker. Crosby surpassed Brett Favre for most consecutive games played for the Packers this season, and will likely extend that streak even further as he prepares for his 17th season in the NFL.
The Packers elected to not re-sign Corey Bojorquez at the end of last season due to salary cap-restraints and instead elected to sign former Chicago Bears punter Pat O’Donnell to a two-year deal, the first time the team signed a punter in free agency in 22 years.
O’Donnell had a solid season for the Packers, averaging just over 44 yards a punt with 24 of his 54 punts landing inside the 20 and only one landing in the endzone for a touchback. For the cheap price the Packers are paying for him, O’Donnell has been a solid punter for the Packers so far and will likely continue to do so for the Packers next season.
Unfortunately for the Packers, Bojorquez went on to be one of the best punters in the NFL last season, averaging 48.5 yards per punt and having the second longest punt in the NFL with a 76 yard punt. The decision to cut Bojorquez was out of the Packers hands thanks to the salary cap, and it is a shame they couldn’t retain a talented punter like Bojorquez; however the Packers are still in a good situation with O’Donnell and the punter position isn’t a concern like it has been in years past.
Kick Returners: A
The only reason this grade isn’t an A+ is because the Packers took WAY too long to make Keisean Nixon the premier return man. The Packers started the season off with Amari Rodgers as their main returner, despite his struggles at the position last season.Those struggles would continue for Amari Rodgers to start the season, and it wasn’t until week six that the Packers finally made Nixon the primary returner for the team, and in November the Packers would release Rodgers.
With Nixon as the primary return man, the Packers special teams absolutely exploded. Nixon recorded 1009 return yards on 35 returns, for an average of 28.8 yards per return. 21 of Nixon’s 35 returns went for 20+ yards while five of those 35 went for 40 or more yards. Nixon’s 105 yard kickoff return for a touchdown on his first return of the game in the Packers’ week 17 game was the highlight of the season for the special teams, and the Packers first return touchdown since Micah Hyde’s punt return touchdown against the Lions in 2014.
Keisean Nixon’s electric return ability helped out a struggling Packers offense throughout the season, setting them up in excellent field position every time he touched the ball. It’s not everyday you have a kick returner so dangerous opposing kickers kick AWAY from him on kickoffs. The Packers need him, and hopefully he will stay with the team for a while.
Overall Special Teams Before The Season: C+. After: A
Rich Bisaccia has completely transformed the Packers special teams. Bisaccia took a terrible special teams unit and put them on track to be one of the most dangerous units in the NFL. Biscaccia was given some personnel choices as well, bringing in undrafted rookie Jack Coco to be the team’s long snapper, an upgrade to the usually overlooked position.
Additional signings of Dallin Leavitt, Eric Wilson, Corey Ballentine, and Rudy Ford, who would also go on to be a solid safety in an otherwise struggling group, helped bolster the special teams’ coverage tackling on returns. If Rich Bisaccia remains the Packers’ special teams coordinator for this upcoming season, this unit has potential to be one of the best, most dangerous, and most explosive units in the league. The Biscaccia effect, despite some early season struggles, has saved the Packers special teams unit.