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Packers Training Camp Preview: Uncertainty reigns among Specialists

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Although the team has just one punter and one long-snapper on the roster, neither should feel comfortable just yet.

NFL: Green Bay Packers Rookie Orientation Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster prior to training camp, we examine the cornerback position and reveal our pre-camp predictions for the team’s 2017 53-man roster. Ten APC contributors submitted full roster predictions, and we will present the consensus predictions drawn from those individual guesses over the days leading up to the start of camp.

Today, we come to the final set of predictions for the Packers’ 53-man roster, with two days to go until Wednesday, when the team reports for training camp. The final group is the specialists, of which there are currently three on the roster. The Packers have been known to mix things up in training camps past when they were unsatisfied with results, and there’s also a longtime veteran still hanging out on the free agent wire who could come into play in a few weeks.

Here are the players currently on the roster

Returning Players

Mason Crosby, K

Year: 11th
Age: 33 (in September)
How acquired: 6th-round draft pick in 2007 (193 overall)

Crosby’s job is safe; he nailed three field goals from 50-plus yards in the final two minutes of last year’s divisional round win over the Cowboys, sending the Packers to the NFC Championship Game. He had a disappointing miss from 41 in that game, which was one of many mistakes by the entire team.

In the regular season, Crosby was his usual solid if unspectacular self, hitting 87% of his field goals (the second-highest mark over a single season in his career). He did miss a surprising three extra points, however, after missing just three combined over the previous six seasons.

New Acquisitions

Justin Vogel, P

Year: Rookie
Age: 23
How acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017

Vogel was one of the Packers’ initial UDFA signings this season following the draft, and was the Miami Hurricanes’ punter for the last three years. He averaged 43 gross yards per punt in college, but was known for his placement more than his power. That seems to be the Packers’ trend, after the team went with Jacob Schum last season. Schum is now gone after suffering an injury, leaving Vogel as the incumbent and with the job his to lose.

Derek Hart, LS

Year: Rookie
Age: 24
How acquired: Signed as a free agent in 2017

Hart, a rookie out of James Madison University, was out of football last season but signed with the Packers a few weeks before the draft. He and Taybor Pepper competed at the position through rookie minicamp, after which Pepper was cut loose. If Hart can show consistent accuracy and maybe make a play or two in punt coverage, the job could very well be his. However, he is far from a sure thing, since there is a veteran looming over the shoulder of any young long-snapper the Packers bring in.

Summary

Crosby’s job is the only one that’s a sure thing at this point; the Packers could easily bring in additional competition for either Vogel or Hart. In fact, it would not be a stunner if the team were to bring back a former Packer at either position; both Tim Masthay and Brett Goode are still on the market as free agents. Although the team jettisoned Masthay during training camp last year in favor of Jacob Schum (who was waived with an injury settlement during OTAs), it could be possible that the team would bring him in should Vogel struggle significantly in camp.

As for long snapper, just last season the Packers tried out Rick Lovato through training camp but brought Goode back just before the regular season began. After another season without any bad snaps, it is easy to imagine the team keeping that option open for 2017 as well.

Stay tuned and follow along with these players as camp progresses.