As everyone knows, the Packers special teams was abysmal last season and virtually single handedly lost them the game in the divisional round, and made other games closer than they should’ve been. Whether it was muffed punts, missed or blocked kicks, or their inability to tackle opposing returners, special teams was by far the weakest part of the Packers team last season. This year that will change.
Mason Crosby had a down year last season, going 25/34 (73.5%) on field goals and 49/51 on extra points. Crosby was perfect heading into the Packers week five matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, including a 51-yard game-winner against the San Francisco 49ers in week 3; however, after a 4th quarter/overtime performance for the ages where he went 1/4 on field goals, with the sole make being the game winner, Crosby became inconsistent. Between week five and their bye in week 13, Crosby went an appalling 8/14 (57.1%) on field goals. Luckily following the bye, Crosby righted the ship and went perfect the rest of the season, until he had a kick blocked in the divisional round. A season this bad is uncharacteristic of Crosby, in fact the last time he had a season this poor was back in 2012, where he went 21/33 (63.6%) on field goals. He would bounce back the following year going 33/37 (89.1%). Crosby will bounce back this season and get back to his reliable self.
The Packers elected to not re-sign Corey Bojorquez in the off-season to instead bring in long-time Chicago Bears punter Pat O’Donnell, coming off one of the best years of his career. O’Donnell averaged 46.2 yards per punt this past season, the second most in a season of his career. Trading for Bojorquez after the 2021 preseason was a great move for the Packers punting game after 2018 5th round draft pick JK Scott showed signs of declining during the 2020 season. While it is sad the Packers couldn’t bring back Bojorquez, there is little doubt that O’Donnell will be able to pick up right where Bojorquez left off.
Ever since the Packers elected to not bring back Tyler Ervin, the Packers haven’t had a solid kick returner. Cobb and Am. Rodgers switched off returning punts last year and were less than stellar, to say the least. Kylin Hill was solid at returning kickoffs to start the year but suffered an ACL tear against the Arizona Cardinals in week 8 last season, leaving Am. Rodgers to return them as well. Should Kylin Hill not be ready to go week one, Am. Rodgers will most likely be the starting return man, and if last season is any indication that will be an issue for the Packers. The Packers returners are one of the worst in the league, but there is hope that they can improve with the hiring of their new coordinator who has made a living with excellent special teams play.
During the off-season, the Packers made arguably their biggest move with releasing special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton and bringing in former Raiders assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia. The hiring of Bisaccia is huge for the Packers, who struggled the entire year on special teams, as Bisaccia has a great history of coaching excellent special teams play. Last year, he coached the Raiders’ 11th best special teams unit, while the Packers finished dead last in the league. This hiring alone builds immense confidence in how much improved the special teams unit can be this upcoming season, and it will be exciting to see the Bisaccia magic at work.
The special teams unit will be much improved next season solely because of the hiring of Rich Bisaccia. Something as simple as a coaching change can go a long way in improving a unit, especially one as bad as the Packers unit were last year, however right now we cannot in good conscience give the special teams group as a whole a better grade than a C- given their terrible performance last season. Time will tell if they will improve, and by the time the regular season rolls around we will have an answer.
Special Teams Overall Grade: C-