Packers 2014 Offseason Review: Grading the Special Teams Players

Matthew Stockman

The series wraps up with a look at the three special teams players and how their 2013 season lived up to (or in one case, greatly exceeded) expectations.

It was a season to remember for the Packers' special teams, for both reasons good and bad. The return teams were in general less than stellar, though they received some surprising contributions from Micah Hyde, but the coverage teams struggled with changing personnel and injuries all season long.

However, we're not focusing on those players in today's roster analysis. No, today we are only focusing on the three players whose positions are exclusive to special teams. The big story of the year was the resurgence of the Packers' place-kicker, but the performances by the punter and long-snapper rounded out this unit as one of the more solid kicking games in the NFL in 2013.

2013 Packers' Special Teamers

Kicker: Mason Crosby
Punter: Tim Masthay
Long-Snapper: Brett Goode

Released: Giorgio Tavecchio, Zach Ramirez

Expectations

In 2012, Mason Crosby had what can only be described as an abysmal season kicking the football. He made just 21 of 33 field goal attempts, a 63.6% conversion rate that was among the worst in the past decade. Expectations were certainly tempered for him moving into 2013, and youngsters Tavecchio and Ramirez were brought in to push Crosby for the kicking job. Even when he won the competition, Crosby took an incentive-laden deal that would only pay him his full salary if he was an exceptional kicker in 2013.

Tim Masthay was coming off a solid season in 2012, and though his gross punting average dropped a bit from his excellent 2011 (45.6 to 43.5 yards), he placed a whopping 37 of his 82 punts inside the 20-yard line, a rate of 45%, and hit only five into the end zone (counting playoffs). Masthay was expected to continue his good work and keep the field position game stable.

As for the long-snapper, Brett Goode was expected to do what all long-snappers are expected to do: fire the ball accurately into Tim Masthay's hands each and every time.

2013 Recap

For Masthay and Goode, expectations were met. The Ginger Wolverine improved his punting average to 44.6 yards, though his rate of pinning kicks inside the 20 dropped to about 35%. The average return on a punt went from 7.3 yards to 12.8 in 2013, but a good portion of that can likely be attributed to the struggles of the coverage units rather than Mastahy himself. In fact, Masthay made four tackles on the year and excelled early on in kickoffs before Crosby retook those duties. Goode, on the other hand, made no poor snaps.

However, Mason Crosby might have been the most improved player on the Packers' roster from 2012. Counting the playoff game, Crosby went 35 of 39 on field goals in 2013, hitting just shy of 90%. His only four misses were from 42 yards or longer and all were outdoors. A year after hitting just two of his nine attempts from 50 or more yards, Crosby was five for seven. All in all, Crosby earned back every penny of his original contract after posting his best season as a professional kicker.

Overall Grade: A-

Keep in mind that this grade is only for these three players. If coverage or return teams were being considered, this grade would be substantially lower. Crosby's rise from the ashes is the big story here, and the only demerits for this group were Masthay's slight regression in pinning balls inside the 20 (though field position played a factor there) and some very minor issues on kickoffs.

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