In a season where Packers fans have once again been graced with plus-offense and, surprising to some, plus-defense, special teams’ woes continue to plague a team that appears destined for a trip to SoFi Stadium in February. But while Mason Crosby and the kicking operation have received the brunt of the heat this season, the return game has quietly been one of the worst in the NFL. This begs the question — who should be the Packers’ punt-returner — Amari or Randall?
The numbers don’t lie — Amari Rodgers hasn’t been great as a punt-returner in his rookie season. The Packers average a league-worst 5.9 yards per return.
The team also hasn’t seen a return longer than 17 yards — tied third-worst in the league. Most critically, Rodgers has coughed up the ball twice this season, tied for most in the NFL.
Drayton said the inclement weather led him to choose the veteran option for punt-returns, in what was the most important game of the season.
Cobb didn’t do much to back up his coach’s decision, though. A muffed punt in the second quarter ultimately led to a field goal, and that was the only boot that wasn’t fair caught.
Drayton referred back to a comment he previously made that explained how different it is fielding punts in comparison to fielding kicks. The high-hanging boots can get caught in the wind, and even an experienced returner can be left with a difficult task, as Cobb showed.
While the duo has been splitting opportunities in practice, it would make sense that Rodgers is at a disadvantage in this mid-season battle.
Aside from Rodgers being the younger and likely more nimble option, Cobb’s track record as a punt-returner speaks for itself. While he’s never been an elite returner, he’s fielded nearly 100 punts in his career, averaging 9.2 yards per return, and taking two back for touchdowns.
There’s optimism that Rodgers will be a mainstay in the Packers’ return game one day soon. But for a team in win-now mode, with the weather getting colder and the wind continuing to gust at typical Lambeau speeds, making punts harder to field, the Packers are certainly considering making a change.
From a production standpoint, it can’t get much worse than what Rodgers has done. And from a point of trust and stability at the position, it would be tough to find many fans who say Rodgers is the more reliable return option.
The mid-season position battle bears watching closely as it will end up being an important decision at some point in the next two months.——————
Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.