Heading into the 2021 season, I wrote about how critical it was for the Packers to improve their Special Teams. Outside of Mason Crosby, who excelled in 2020, the rest of the unit was a disaster. New man in charge Maurice Drayton had a tall task in front of him and unfortunately, didn’t get the job done. As you know, it ended up biting the Packers at the worst possible time in 2021-2022, and Drayton was relieved of his duties.
Presently, the Packers are in a similar situation that they were a year ago. They must improve their bottom of the league performance on Special Teams. Green Bay hired Rich Bisaccia from the Las Vegas Raiders to fix things. Bisaccia, who is well known because of his interim stint as head coach of the Raiders in 2021, is a special teams lifer. The 61 year old, New York native has been coaching college or pro football since 1983. He broke into the NFL in 2002 where he was Special Teams coordinator of the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers and has coached special teams in the NFL ever since.
Bisaccia, Coach LaFleur and the rest of the coaching staff will need to put their collective heads together and find solutions. A good place to start would be to
1) Find a consistent player to return kicks and punts
Amari Rodgers’ 18 yards per kick return and Malik Taylor’s 19 yards per kick return are not good enough. Compare those numbers with the top kick returners in 2021, according to footballdb.com
The Packers may be counting on 2nd year RB Kylin Hill to be their main guy on kick returns as he flashed burst in the preseason, as well as an impressive kick return in Week 2 of the regular season against the Lions. Hill’s season was cut short in late October due to a torn ACL, so it might be smart to think of other options heading into 2022 as Hill continues to recover.
Amari Rodgers, the Packers primary kick and punt return man last season, never looked comfortable catching the football, let alone running with it. It might be time for the Packers to specifically target a player in the NFL Draft who showcases good to great kick and punt return ability, as it’s been lacking for far too long in Green Bay.
2) Fix the Long-Snapper Issue
The Packers replaced Long-Snapper Hunter Bradley in the middle of the 2021 season with Long-Snapper Steven Wirtel. Bradley, who had been with the Packers since 2018, was the lowest graded long snapper in the NFL when he was replaced. Wirtel wasn’t much of an improvement, if at all. This is the NFL and NFL teams don’t have time for issues at long-snapper. The Packers need to bring in added competition and fix this for good.
3) Coach the Players
This solution is almost too obvious because every NFL Team has coaches in place to do just that, coach. However, it’s fair to question how much of Mo Drayton’s messages were resonating with the players last year. The Packers consistently failed to do the simplest things correctly, such as protecting field goals and punts from being blocked. Issues like that, as well as the long-snapper problem, are literally Football 101 in the Pro’s.
To coach LaFleur’s credit, the Packers were the least penalized team in the league last year as a whole. That’s a credit to good coaching and sound discipline by players. However, the simple lack of execution on the most basic of fundamentals needs to be cleaned up and cleaned up greatly. If not, it is 100% acceptable to assume Special Teams will be the downfall of the 2022 Packers, again.
Thankfully, Green Bay finally has a proven coach in Bisaccia who should be able to motivate, teach and get through to his players. Even if the Packers can just be a middle of the road Special Teams unit, it would feel like the #1 ranking in the league to Packers fans after the horrendous display on the field over the last two campaigns.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a diehard Packers fan. Alex\\\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.