The final aspect of the 2019 recap lies in looking back at the special teams unit for the Green Bay Packers. Led by long-time kicker Mason Crosby, young punter JK Scott, and a plethora of uninspiring returners (and Tyler Ervin), this unit was solid, if not unspectacular this past year.
For Crosby, he had his best season, statistically, considering both field goals and extra points. Only missing two field goals (22/24) and one extra point (40/41), he produced his highest field-goal percentage of his career, and his extra-point percentage was the fourth-highest in his 14-year career.
Crosby’s tenure with GB was in a bit of uncertainty across the 2017 and 2018 seasons, due to his untrusted field goal abilities. 78.9 and 81.1 percent were the stats for both of those seasons, respectively, and Crosby faced training camp competition during those rough times. However, his ‘19 season looks to have put that to rest, and he is signed until 2022, which could result in his retirement once the deal is complete.
Scott, who was drafted out of Alabama in 2018, has put together two solid seasons in his bout to replace Justin Vogel. Being taken in the fifth round (#172) is decently high for a special teams-only player, so the responsibilities to help this team out from day one were quite evident.
Having punted seven more times than in ‘18, Scott’s numbers were better across the board. He had around 300 more net yards, 1.1 more yards on his net average (39.9), had zero punts blocked, had 29 punts downed inside the 20, and only have four touchbacks, an improvement over the nine that he produced in ‘18.
While special teams are not super flashy, they are the third integral aspect to every team’s gameday approach – here are a few elements moving forward to keep an eye on.
Will Tyler Ervin remain the team’s lone punt returner?
Before the team signed Ervin as a street free agent, they were setting all kinds of records – just the wrong ones. Coming into the first game of Ervin’s GB career (at home against Washington), they had produced negative yardage throughout the entire season returning punts, and their longest punt return was atrocious as well.
All Ervin decided to do was remove GB from the wrong side of history in just one game, and practically every return he had broke the previous record for that season.
Ervin’s role stretches outside of just special teams, as he was involved in the offensive scheme in gadget plays, but his true value lies in his return abilities. Helping jumpstart the team’s drive by setting them up in prime field position (off kicks or punts) is all the offense can ask for, and Ervin has proven to be able to do that.
Outside of Ervin, potential returners could include Tramon Williams (if he is resigned), Jaire Alexander, and Josh Jackson, among others. Ervin is the best option this team currently has, and they would be smart to continue to put Ervin out in that position.
Free agency really has no needle pushers for this position group, and they are not actively looking to replace an aspect of their special teams unit, as they should not be. Crosby and Scott are well entrenched in their respective roles, long snapper Hunter Bradley is doing as well as a long snapper can do, and Ervin seems to have the returning role locked down.
If looking for a bit more firepower in the draft, however, in the return game specifically, players like Isaiah Rodgers (CB, UMass), Darrynton Evans (RB, Appalachian State), or Joe Reed (WR, Virginia) all have some sort of returning experience and could become two-way players, both on offense/defense and then on the return unit(s).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