In 2019, the Green Bay Packers’ roster looks very different from how it appeared at the end of the 2018 season. A large group of free agents, draft picks, and undrafted rookies will come to training camp to challenge for roster spots and a role on the team’s regular season 53-man roster. Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company will break down the roster position-by-position and reveal our compiled predictions for the 53-man roster.
The Green Bay Packers appear to have a single question among their specialists in 2019. The team has just one player on the roster at punter and long snapper, and those jobs appear all but locked in barring injury in training camp. However, the placekicking job is less certain.
For the first time in half a decade, Mason Crosby has competition. His challenger, Sam Ficken, is familiar with his role: coming into training camp to provide a challenge for an incumbent. He has been unable to unseat the veteran in each of his last three stops, but if the two end up on equal footing by the end of August, there are about five million reasons why the Packers could end up making a change.
Mason Crosby, K
NFL Experience: 13th year in NFL
2018 Stats: 30-37 FGs (81.7%), 34-36 PATs (94.4%)
How Acquired: 6th-round pick in 2007 NFL Draft
Last year, Crosby hit just under 82 percent of his field goals, the 8th time in his 12-year career that he has been under that mark. Green Bay is a difficult place to kick, to be sure, but Crosby’s career average is just over 80 percent. Furthermore, he has missed two or more PATs in four of the last five seasons.
Granted, much of Crosby’s struggles in 2018 came in a single game — a 31-23 loss to the Detroit Lions. That day, he missed four of five field goal attempts and his only PAT attempt, while kicking inside at Ford Field. Outside of that game, he missed three field goals all year while going 5-of-7 from 50-plus yards, tying the best mark from that distance in his career (2013).
Entering the final year of his contract, however, Crosby has a cap hit of $4.85 million, which is the highest cap hit among any player at his position in the NFL for the 2019 season. Given that Crosby has not converted his attempts at a top-five rate at any point in his career — he has never hit the 90% mark on field goals in a single season — it is fair to wonder if he returns for a 13th (and likely final) season with the team.
JK Scott, P
NFL Experience: 2nd year in NFL
2018 Stats: 71 punts, 3,176 yards gross, 44.7 gross average, 39.3 net average, 9 touchbacks, 19 punts inside the 20
How Acquired: 5th-round pick in 2018 NFL Draft
Scott arrived in Green Bay last year as a highly-regarded draft pick and the second punter off the board behind Seattle’s selection of Michael Dickson. While Dickson earned All-Pro honors, Scott struggled to adjust to the pro game somewhat under Ron Zook’s tutelage. While he had a solid gross punting average, his net average was disappointing and he had trouble keeping balls between the 20 and the goal line.
Scott should be a candidate for a second-year jump, however. Shawn Mennenga will undoubtedly be charged with figuring out how to coach Scott up into a upper-tier NFL punter. He has the leg (two college seasons with a gross average over 47 yards) and he has shown directional ability in the past, but now he needs to put it all together. Still, with no competition in camp, the job is his barring a complete meltdown.
Hunter Bradley, LS
NFL Experience: 2nd year in NFL
2018 Stats: 1 solo tackle; 1 fumble
How Acquired: 7th-round pick in 2018 NFL Draft
Last year, Bradley more or less got the long snapper job by default after the Packers used a draft pick on him. He struggled a bit with a few wayward snaps in training camp, but seemed to be mostly consistent when the regular season rolled around. Now the team appears prepared to roll with him once again in 2019.
Sam Ficken, K
NFL Experience: First-year player (entered NFL in 2016)
2018 Stats: 1-3 FGs (33.3%), 10-10 PATs (100%)
How Acquired: Claimed off waivers from Seattle Seahawks in April 2019
For the first time since 2013, the Packers brought in competition for Crosby in camp when they added Ficken to the roster in April. After a pair of brief stints with the Rams over the past two seasons when Greg Zuerlein was injured, the Penn State product enters training camp trying to unseat an incumbent veteran for the fourth straight year.
Ficken made just one of three attempts last year, missing from 46 and 28 yards while hitting from 34. In college, Ficken struggled as a sophomore and junior, hitting around two-thirds of his field goals, before improving to go 24-for-29 (82.8%) as a senior. He will need to keep up with Crosby in training camp to have a shot, but given the veteran’s contract situation, Ficken at least has a chance.