In a tactic to help boost and improve the kicking game, the Green Bay Packers brought in some competition for long-time kicker Mason Crosby in training camp. Sam Ficken, a former Los Angeles Rams kicker who filled in for Greg Zuerlein (Legatron) while he fought through injuries, was claimed off of waivers and subsequently added into a kicking competition.
While the stats have been pretty similar so far, it does seem difficult to see Crosby being released from this team that has been with him throughout all of his struggles, yet has also been on the winning end of many of his great field goals to win games, especially in the playoffs.
Fostering a sense of competition can only be helpful for professional sports, especially in a sport like the NFL that focuses on winning personal battles. In a position group that the team needs to see much better results from, there were no bodies brought into camp to compete with incumbent punter J.K. Scott.
No competition leaves no room for imagination as to who will win the starting job for the regular season, which also can make players (like Scott) feel like since their spot is all wrapped up, that their performance will not need to be improved. Having been thrown into a camp battle as soon as he arrived in Green Bay, Scott knows first-hand how important having someone breathing down your back can be in helping get the best, most polished product to shine.
Drafted in the fifth round out of Alabama in Brian Gutekunst’s first draft as the general manager, Scott was unable to replicate the stats that Justin Vogel, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2017, produced in his rookie and record-breaking season. A question mark to most when Vogel was released, the bar for Scott to reach was always very high to begin with, especially with the precedent set before him.
Not being able to give up on a fifth-round draft selection in their first camp is pretty much by the book, so once that selection was made Vogel’s time as a Cheesehead was very limited. As Scott took over, his numbers did not necessarily prove that to be the best decision.
In 2018, Green Bay finished 15th in total punt yardage (3,176), tied for 9th for longest punt (67 yards), 21st in average distance per punt (44.7 yards) and 28th in total punts downed inside the opponents 20-yard line (19). While none of these stats really jump off the page, this shows that Scott’s production was very middle of the pack and not necessarily enough to justify being chosen over Vogel.
Drafting specialists puts a really different kind of pressure on management, especially because they normally seem to get a guaranteed roster spot, therefore making a camp competition all but null.
Scott’s punts were in a down year for the offense, so he had many more opportunities to showcase his talents, which he was unable to do. While showing glimmers of why he was drafted as high as he was, Scott still seems to be behind in terms of production.
While difficult to compare a player going into his second year with the rest of the league, Scott must improve. In a season that has its success predicated on how the offense performs, the field position game will be key in helping leverage this team back into competition and the playoffs.
The art of punting is not seen as such an important facet of the game of football, teams that struggle in this area also struggle in others, so getting Scott to improve his mechanics as well as his technique will be key to getting this team into more of a well-rounded product for the 2019 NFL season.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23