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Thursday Cheese Curds: Special teams remain a mixed bag for the Packers

Tyler Ervin’s arrival seems to have turned the tide on what was looking like yet another poor season

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

When your football team is 11-3, you can poke fun at an area that isn’t just struggling but struggling at a historical level.

That is the situation Packers fans found themselves in regarding the team’s punt returns with Green Bay on track to finish with *negative yardage* up until two weeks ago. Praise be to Tyler Ervin!

On a more serious and more positive note, the Packers have significantly cut down on special teams penalties this season, something that likely played a large role in Matt LaFleur choosing not retain former coordinator Ron Zook as he built his staff. Green Bay is currently tied for fifth in the league with 11 special teams penalties (the top teams have nine). Compare this to last season when the Packers committed 26 penalties (second worst in the league) and coordinator Shawn Mennenga deserves credit for turning around something he immediately named as a flaw in his introductory press conference.

As for the rest of special teams, it’s been a mixed bag. Kicker Mason Crosby is having a career year and punter JK Scott was an absolute weapon earlier in the season before becoming more inconsistent as of late. The aforementioned punt return game was a joke prior to Ervin’s arrival and kickoffs haven’t been much better save for a solid return by Ervin on Sunday.

Mennenga hasn’t quite yet earned the ire of Packers fans save the punt return struggles but there’s definitely room for improvement. LaFleur has constantly preached the need for all three phases to be in sync and special teams will need to show something going into the playoffs to secure the coordinator’s return.

Now onto today’s curds.

Packers’ special teams striving to play with ‘penalty-free aggression’—

The arrow is at least pointing in the right direction but special teams were downright bad most of the season. Who would have thought someone named Ervin would bring some Magic back to the return game?

Rashan Gary ‘picking it up’ in recent games—

Lost perhaps in Kenny Clark’s recent dominance is the rising performance of first round pick Rashan Gary. He has been more disruptive the last couple weeks and got his second sack of the season on Sunday. He could be a candidate to be a breakout player in 2020.

Vikings’ Dalvin Cook reportedly unlikely to play vs. Packers on MNF, despite early week optimism from team—CBS Sports

No Dalvin Cook means a heavier dose of Kirk Cousins on Monday night and don’t let Cousins’ Week 2 performance distract you. He’s as hot as any quarterback lately and the Packers still have problems giving up the big play. The Vikings no longer have an expensive punchline under center.

A Day in the Life: Covering the Green Bay Packers on gameday—WFRV

Ever wonder what it’s like covering the Packers on gameday? This great piece by Lily Zhao takes you along for the ride.

Wakanda free trade forever? Fictional nation removed from U.S. trade list—Reuters

Those of you hoping for vibranium to come stateside are going to be very disappointed in this.