How Will The Short Offseason Hurt The Special Teams?

ATLANTA GA - JANUARY 15: Eric Weems #14 of the Atlanta Falcons scores on a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15 2011 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers have had lousy special teams play for the past three seasons, though there was some improvement with the addition of P Tim Masthay. Arguably it was a problem for them all season, they should have been better than 10-6 in 2010 but the special teams unit rarely gave them a big play. It didn't lose them a game in the playoffs, however, it didn't help them win a game either.

Len Pasquarelli thinks the Packers might not be so fortunate next season. At CBSSports.com:

It's somewhat incongruous that in a year in which the Green Bay Packers were the Super Bowl XLV champions, the storied franchise finished near the bottom of the special teams rankings -- 29th, in fact -- annually compiled by NFL writer Rick Gosselin of The Dallas Morning News...

"The impact [of special teams] will probably be bigger than ever," allowed one NFC head coach whose teams ranked in the top one-third of the league in '10, according to Gosselin's calculations. "Details are big in any year, and will be bigger if we have to play without an offseason ... and special teams are all about details."

Still, there is something to be said for continuity, and that's a commodity that, as far as special teams, will be a prized commodity in 2011.

In a way, coach Shawn Slocum has already been through a chaotic season in 2010 when injuries hit his special teams unit hard. At times, there were new players joining the team every week, and he only had that week to get them prepared. Unfortunately it didn't work out so well, as Football Outsiders ranked their special teams unit No. 26 overall due in large part to poor kickoff coverage and kick returns. It's possible that they could be even worse in 2011, but I can't believe it.

Continuity, and having veterans available for special team duties, might be a big reason why S Anthony Smith expects he'll be re-signed by the Packers once the lockout is lifted. Maybe some of the recent late round draft choices will help turn it around. 5 of their last 7 picks last April were defensive backs, linebackers, and tight ends, who are the usually the players running down on kick coverage. Not that I have a lot of faith in Slocum, but Mike McCarthy does, and maybe this is the year it all comes together. It could happen...

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