More Resources for Special Teams

Hyde (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY)

That means more established players and fewer rookies will be blocking and covering kicks than last season, when the Packers ranked 19th in our NFL special teams rankings.

Despite big seasons by Micah Hyde and Mason Crosby, the Green Bay Packers’ special teams ranked 19th in the end-of-season special teams rankings produced by both Packer Report and the Dallas Morning News.

Figuring better players will mean better results, coach Mike McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum are using more established players on the kicking units in order to swing field position in Green Bay’s direction.

“When you go back to the evaluation of postseason, we need to get back to giving special teams all the resources to be successful,” McCarthy said on Tuesday, two days before the season-opening matchup at Seattle. “We’ve played younger players, we’ve had injuries, we’ve had things happen in the past. Our veterans are back playing on special teams.”

Of Green Bay’s rookie class, only first-round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix figures to be a staple on any of the four core units (kickoff and kickoff return, punt and punt return). While rookie Jeff Janis had a big kickoff return in the preseason finale and fielded the ball cleanly on punts in the preseason, McCarthy and Slocum are going with DuJuan Harris as the kickoff returner and choosing between Hyde and Randall Cobb on punt returns. Established players like Ryan Taylor, Jamari Lattimore, Sean Richardson and Jarrett Bush will be core players.

On the bright side, Green Bay’s punt return team, which was sparked by Hyde, led the league last season in opponent net average. On the other hand, the punt unit ranked 21st in net average and the kickoff team finished at the bottom in opponent average starting field position.

Fixing the kickoff unit was a major emphasis for Slocum throughout training camp, and the early results in the preseason were encouraging. The No. 1 kickoff unit from training camp remained almost intact, with only Chris Banjo failing to secure a roster spot. It was a similar story for the punt unit, with the only player on the No. 1 unit at the end of training camp failing to win a roster spot being Nate Palmer, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the preseason finale.

“It helps a lot when guys line up game after game and play next to one another because they learn how to use each other,” Slocum said. “When you have change, you have newness that sometimes can lead to problems. We’ve dealt with some of that (in past seasons).”

The Packers won’t be using many of their starters on special teams but they won’t be using bottom-of-the-depth chart guys, either.

“I think the best thing to do, regardless of whether a guy is starting or not starting, you have to make the decision of who’s going to play on your team that’s going to be the most productive taking all things into consideration,” Slocum said. “If a guy’s playing 80 plays on defense, he’s probably not going to be as productive as a guy that’s playing 30. Now, he may be a ‘starter’ in your nickel or something like that, but yet he’s covering punts and kickoffs, now he’s getting his 50 plays. We consider all those things. So, there’s no concrete formula on how to do it, it’s just what fits our team the best and how strategically we want to go about it.”


Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.


Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

PackerReport.com Recommended Stories


  • It took seven games but the YAC-producing, tackle-breaking Randall Cobb returned on Sunday against Carolina (Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

  • With a depleted supporting cast of proven playmakers, Aaron Rodgers might be having his best season. Nonetheless, Rodgers' brilliant numbers haven't exactly dropped the jaws of anyone in the Packers'…

  • One week at a time, Green Bay's defense has been turning its weaknesses into strengths. With Week 7 almost in the books, the Packers rank 10th in points and tied for eighth in yards per play, and sore…

  • You must consider these NINE players! You simply must. And while doing so, allow us to tell you about FanDuel's Fantasy Football Championship. You could be one of 100 finalists winning a trip to the…

  • The San Francisco Giants came out swinging in Game One of the 2014 World Series, scoring three times in the first inning and never looking back.