No one thought the Green Bay Packers special teams would be among the league’s best this season, but after forcefully retiring special teams coach Mike Stock in January, there was supposed to be some improvement.
Under new coach Shawn Slocum the Packers special teams remains a major weakness, and one has to question whether it’s the coaches or the personnel.
The Packers coverage units are atrocious. Big returns lead to scores, stifle momentum and generally help the opposing team win – three things that have been on prime display the past two weeks.
Against the Buccaneers, an 83-yard kickoff return by Clinton Smith set up a short touchdown drive that allowed the Buccaneers to pull within 28-23, after the Packers were threatening to put the game away.
The previous week, Minnesota’s Percy Harvin had returns of 77 and 48 yards, both of which lead to Vikings touchdowns and essentially sucked any momentum out of the Packers sails.
Forget for a second yesterday’s blocked punt that resulted when Tampa linebacker Geno Hayes went unblocked up the middle. Forget the idiocy and stupidity it takes to allow that to happen. Here’s the really telling number about the Packers punt team – punter Jeremy Kapinos’ net average is 32.6, which is dead last in the league and further illuminates the Packers deficiencies in coverage.
Although these are the most glaring sins of the Packers special teams, the units on the other side of the ball have been less than spectacular to say the least.
The team ranks 24th in the league in punt return average, at 6.1 yards per return. Kick returns are bit more middle of the road (17th, 22.5 yards per return), but can anyone remember when a member of the Packers was a threat to take a kick to the house?
I’ll give you a hint – it was prior to week four, when Will Blackmon suffered a season-ending injury.
The Packers lack of a big-play threat on special teams is minor in comparison to the mental errors and lack of discipline on their coverage units, however. Unless, of course, the team just lacks talent.
In either case, replacing the special teams’ coach probably isn’t the cure all solution it was supposed to be last year.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson are running out of people to throw under the bus.