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Packers special teams improved from horrendous in 2014 to average in 2015

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The Green Bay special teams cleaned up the biggest problems from the 2014 season, improving from a worst-in-the-league finish to finish in the middle of the pack.

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The Green Bay Packers' special teams were truly atrocious in 2014. The team allowed seven blocked kicks, played poorly in kick and punt coverage, and allowed a critical onside kick conversion at the end of the NFC Championship Game, all of which led to special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum's release shortly after the season ended.

This season, Ron Zook was promoted as Slocum's replacement, and the Packers showed a marked improvement in the third phase of the game during the 2015 season. Granted, the Packers' units ended up in the middle of the NFL, but after a disastrous 2014, any significant improvement is welcome.

Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News compiles an aggregated special teams ranking each year, and this metric shows that the Packers finished 17th in the league this season - smack-dab in the middle of the NFL - one year after finishing dead last.

In 2015, Green Bay's punt coverage unit finished as the best in the league, as they allowed just 4.2 yards per return during the regular season. This was reportedly a focus of the Packers' all season long, as punter Tim Masthay was asked to trade some gross yardage for better hang time and more directional kicks. In doing so, he set a team record for net punting average this season with 40.1, also due in part to good play from Jeff Janis and the coverage teams. However, that average ranked just 14th in the NFL this season, and Masthay's gross average was 43.9, which tied for his second-lowest of any season.

The Packers' punt return game struggled this season, however, finishing among the worst in the league this season with just 5.4 yards per return. Micah Hyde's 5.8-yard average was abysmal, after averaging nearly 16 yards per return one year ago. On kickoffs, though, the numbers were up a bit overall thanks to the addition of Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis to the returner group. Both of those players averaged 29 yards per return or more, while Hyde was close to his career average of 24. All in all, the team's average yardage on kickoff returns improved from 19.1 to 24.5.