To prepare for training camp, we will be breaking down every player on the Green Bay Packers' 90-man roster in more detail, looking at contract terms and 2013 statistics, before we make our prediction for which players will make the 53-man roster at the end of training camp.
If you, like me, groaned every time you watched an opposing punt returner this past season, it's easy to see where the Packers' special teams group can improve. A rash of injuries turned the coverage team into a slew of inexperienced players. That, in essence, is why it is so hard to project 'starters' on the 2014 team. Of course, the coverage and return teams will be culled from the ranks of the other positions, so to keep things simple, we'll just look at the guys whose special teams positions are officially recognized.
Projected Starters: Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
I was at Packers Family Night last August, and I honestly believed that I was witnessing the end of Crosby. The guy couldn't get a kick in between the crossbars, while the folk hero-ish Giorigio Tavecchio didn't miss. It turned out that this was the low point, and from there, Crosby went on to have a bounce-back season, including hitting 5 of 7 from fifty-plus. An offense like Green Bay's needs a guy who can finish off drives in those occasions when Rodgers and Lacy can't. Crosby seems to be the fit.
The Ginger Wol- hem, I mean Tim Masthay- had another underrated year. While the likes of Bleacher Report continue to label him a below-average punter, the fact is that his net numbers were stunted by - you guessed it - the awful coverage team. If those guys get healthy, perhaps Masthay will get the credit he deserves.
Speaking of underrated, Brett Goode was noted as a below-average long snapper by Pro Football Focus. The quote about Goode that comes to mind for me is from one of JSOnline's 'rival executives' pieces. When the anonymous GM was asked about number sixty-one, his response was to the effect of, "I don't think that guy has ever botched a snap." With the new talent at other positions this year, it might be reasonable to hope for a guy like Don Barclay or TJ Lang to perhaps take over the incumbent's duties. Brett is far too reliable to pass up, especially when one mistake by the snapper can and often does derail a critical play.
Projected To Be Cut: Nobody
Since there's no competition at any of these positions, we've got nothing more to report.
Thus, I think this is an appropriate place to talk about the coverage units, and why I think they'll improve. Green Bay allowed its opponents to start at the 25.6-yard line on average, worst in the league. When the guys who are usually tasked with making those tackles have to play on defense instead, you end up with one of two things. Either you've got the same guys who have been grinding it out on D all game and who are thus winded, or you've got roster fillers being asked to tackle the likes of Percy Harvin. Needless to say, neither option is ideal. If the team gets to even league-average health, though, it'll allow primary special teamers (think guys like Jamari Lattimore and Davon House) to play special teams.