Pinch me. Through three games, the Green Bay Packers’ Special Teams have actually been, good. After an offseason of waking up in a cold sweat from re-occurring nightmares of botched punt coverage, could it really be over? I was considering seeing a therapist for this and sending the bill to Maurice Drayton. But then the Packers signed Rich Bisaccia to be the new Special Teams coach. Hope was given.
This week, Punter Pat O’Donnell was voted the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. In week 3, O’Donnell punted 7 times for an average of 48.4 yards. Which the number of punts isn’t ideal obviously, but if it’s going to happen, you want your punter to have that kind of day. Five of those punts were inside the 20, one of which was downed at the 2-yard line. It’s not unreasonable to say that forcing Tom Brady to start so many drives with 80+ yards ahead of him, was a big advantage. Corey Bojorquez definitely started last season strong and made us think our punting woes were over until he disappeared in the cold. Pat O’Donnell as many have said, is used to punting in the cold, and hopefully won’t go away.
The vast majority of Free Agency dollars in 2022 were used to bring in some Special Teams assistance. Outside of Pat O’Donnell’s signing was also Keisean Nixon, Dallin Leavitt, and a later addition, Rudy Ford. In Rich Bisaccia’s system, players normally known as “Gunners” are referred to as “Flyers.” Their primary function is to get to the ball as quickly as possible to avoid returns.
Not enough can be said about the impact of all three of these players on kick coverage. Their coverage has forced fair catches on 6/13 punts this season. Even on those that were returned, there’s only been an average of 8 yards gained. Against the Buccaneers, one punt was fielded by Keisean Nixon at the 2 yard line, pinning the Bucs offense deep. That seemed to be a rarity in the past as most kicks in that area ended up in the endzone. I look forward to hopefully more downed inside the 5.
Keisean Nixon was quoted in an interview this week stating that his punter with the Raiders last year, AJ Cole was a Pro Bowler. He’s focused on sending Pat O’Donnell to the Pro Bowl this year. I can’t remember a single Packers Punter ever making the Pro Bowl, so that would truly be something.
Granted there’s only been 8 Extra Points/Field Goals attempted so far this season, they’ve been flawless. A few months back I wrote an article about Mason Crosby and Pat O’Donnell’s fun friendship, and so far, it’s paid off. Some of that can also be attributed to the Packers new long-snapper Jack Coco, who seems like in camp, and in regular season now, can do no wrong. Mason Crosby might be up there in age at 38 years young, but he’s still an outstanding kicker who’s overcome his share of adversity. If this kicking game can stay solid, we could be looking at a few more years of the Packers legend that is Mason Crosby.
All in all, Special Teams can indeed win Championships. As we watch our Offense begin to find its identity this season, and our Defense look like they could be a dominant force, Special Teams could be right up there with them.
Yes, it’s only after week 3. But the prospect of not seeking counseling this summer due to our Special Teams, definitely has me optimistic. At the end of the year, here’s to hoping we’re looking at Rich Bisaccia’s unit as a strength. And hopefully that’s while we marvel at the Super Bowl rings on our fingers.
Greg Meinholz is a 24/7/365 Packers fan. When he’s not spending time with his family, he can be found meditating in his Packers shrine with a good beer. You can follow him on twitter at @gmeinholz.
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