Packers' Special Teams: Striving For Mediocrity

Tom Silverstein wrote an article about the Green Bay Packers on kick returns this season. He pointed out that they've been "12th in drive start" and "consistently avoided bad field position after kickoff." Then he spoke with special teams coach Shawn Slocum about it:

"It's by design," special teams coach Shawn Slocum said. "It's something Mike (McCarthy) and I looked at back in the spring and decided what we wanted to be on kickoff return. We've employed a lot of offensive principles in the way we've done it and as a result it hasn't been flashy.

"We have the opportunity to make a big play, but it's been solid. The guys are blocking well, and for the most part we've got a chance to get outside the 20. Anything beyond that - if you get it outside the 30, the percentages of scoring on the drive are enhanced tremendously."

So the goal is to get somewhere between the 20 and 30 yard line? According to Football Outsiders, the Packers score on kickoff returns is -5.5 through week 16 (a score of zero is average). The Browns are the best kick return team in the league, thanks to KR Josh Cribbs, and have a score of 22. So the Packers are well below average, but several other teams are actually worse. 

Maybe it's just spin by Slocum and he's just trying to put his guys in a good light. I'm concerned that he actually thinks his mediocre kick return team is good enough. According to NFL.com, the Packers are last in the league (along with a few others) with only one kickoff return over 40 yards, tied with half of the league with zero returns for a TD, and among the league leaders with two fumbles. They done little to improve the team's field position throughout the season, and haven't provided them with any easy points. And the two fumbles have provided easy points for their opponents.

And this doesn't even address the nothing they've produced on punt returns, and the poor kicking this season by K Mason Crosby and P Jeremy Kapinos. Though it's not worth it trying to replace either of them so late in the season.

We'll see what happens in the offseason, maybe all the spin will go away and real changes will be made on special teams, but right now it sounds like the coaches are content with having one of the worst special teams units in the league.

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