It was a long way to go for the Green Bay Packers’ special teams to climb out of the cellar that they had dug for themselves over the past several years. New coordinator Rich Bisaccia had his hands full coming into 2022 to fix that phase of the football, and he is finally seeing the fruits of his labor come forth.
The Packers’ DVOA numbers on that side of the ball still don’t look great. The team ranks 22nd in the NFL overall on special teams in that metric. But the gap between the 19th and the 23rd ranked teams is minuscule, with the gap from 19 to 28 being pretty small as well. Furthermore, the Packers have seen marked improvements recently. jumping up from 27th to 22nd just this past week.
Of course, the kickoff returns have been a bright spot, as the Packers suddenly have the second-best unit in the NFL. Surprisingly, however, the punt team has been a struggle, ranking towards the bottom of the league despite positive narratives around Pat O’Donnell and his ability to place punts inside the 20. (The fake punt on Sunday might affect that too, of course.)
You can check out all of those numbers with a free Football Outsiders account here, but the fact is that the special teams are getting better. Some of the units are still works in progress, but fundamentally, the shift away from a certain former return man and a heavier focus on rostering special teams aces has seemingly paid some dividends, getting the team closer to the middle of the pack than they have been in recent years.
Given the finishes in last or near last place over those past few seasons, being a mid-tier unit is a welcome sight.
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Everything else went the Packers' way on special teams on Sunday besides that one bad call, with another big return from Keisean Nixon, great coverage, and several smooth operations on place-kicks.
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Allen Lazard's block of three defenders of course gets a mention, but there were a number of instances of a single Packer affecting a play in multiple ways on Sunday.
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As we discussed on the Repack podcast this week, these issues remain concerning. Whether the departure of Nathaniel Hackett or Davante Adams is more impactful doesn't matter -- the team needs to figure something out quickly.
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Packers fans will be cheering for the Browns this week, as a Cleveland win over Washington clears the path for Green Bay to win out and get into the playoffs.
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