Category Archives: Special Teams Coaches

3

February

Ryan Taylor: 2011 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers Tight End Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor

1) Introduction: Ted Thompson raised a few eyebrows in April when he took Taylor just two rounds after selecting D.J. Williams at the same position. The Packers then had five tight ends, including Taylor, with a chance to make the final roster at the beginning of training camp. By September 3, Taylor and his four peers had, in fact, made the 53.

2) Profile:

Ryan Lawrence Taylor

Position: TE
Height: 6-2
Weight: 245 lbs.
AGE: 23

Career Stats

 

3) Expectations coming into the season: A special teams captain in two of his four years at North Carolina with experience playing linebacker, Taylor reminded some of Spencer Havner. If he was able to make the 53-man roster in 2011, most expected Taylor to play a similar role.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Taylor played on just 32 offensive snaps but did catch his first career touchdown pass in Week 14 against Oakland. It ended up being Taylor’s only catch of the season. To his credit on special teams, Taylor was active in 15 of 17 games and finished second on the team with eight total tackles.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Taylor was a core special teams player who provided energy and a touch of nastiness. Being active in 15 of 17 games as a seventh round pick on a defending Super Bowl champion says enough about what Mike McCarthy and Shawn Slocum thought of Taylor as a special teamer. While he didn’t get in the game on offense until Week 13, few expected him to play a big role offensively in Year 1.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Taylor was active and played six offensive snaps against the Giants. He didn’t record a catch or special teams tackle.

Season Report Card:

(B) Level of expectations met during the season
(C) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(D) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade: C-

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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28

June

Chasing Perfection: A Few Areas Where the Packers Can Improve in 2011

We’ve all read or heard the quote. It’s a time-honored choice of words that transcends football, or any sport for that matter, and it was uttered by the most famous coach in Packers and NFL history.

“Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.” — Vince Lombardi

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these words, or a variation of it, were said in each NFL locker room every season. The quote in itself  is nearly perfect, as there has only been one “perfect” team record-wise in the Super Bowl era.

Which brings me to my overall point. While the Packers accomplished the goal that every team sets out to at the beginning of the season, they weren’t a perfect team by any means. The 2010 Packers lost six games along the way, overcoming several deficiencies in the process. Every Packer fan from the Pacific to the Atlantic (and beyond, for our international readers) expects the Packers to repeat next season, but that might not be possible unless the Packers continue to chase perfection.

Listed below are several areas where the Packers can continue to improve for next season, and the ways in which they can do it.

 

Kick and Punt Returning

Could Improve:

The Packers averaged just 20.8 yards per return on kicks and 7.9 on punts, good for 26th and 22nd in the NFL, respectively. The group—which consisted of Jordy Nelson, Sam Shields, Pat Lee, James Starks and Tramon Williams—produced zero touchdowns and very few big plays. The Packers were also one of five teams that failed to produce a kick or punt return over 60 yards over the course of the season.

How it Could Improve:

The Packers made their first substantial move in the returning department in some time when they took Randall Cob in the second round of April’s draft. He’ll need to win the spot in camp, but all signs point to Cobb being the Packers primary return of kicks and punts. If that scenario does unfold, Cobb should be a marked improvement. He scored two touchdowns off punts at Kentucky, and averaged 24.7 yards on 44 career kick returns. I’d hesitate to call him the next Devin Hester, but Cobb can help turn around the Packers returning woes in a hurry.

12

April

Packers Prospect Profile — WR Jeremy Ross, University of California, Berkeley

1) Profile:

Jeremy Spencer Ross

College: California (University of California, Berkeley)

Position: WR, KR, PR

Height: 6′0″   Weight: 203 lbs.

Born: March 16, 1988 From: Sacramento, CA

2) High School / College Highlights: A dual threat in high school as both a rusher and a receiver, Ross was an All-State selection and Delta League MVP with 964 yards on 99 carries and 718 yards on 45 catches.  Committed to Cal in 2006 but spent the year redshirted and shared offensive scout team player of the year.

In 2007 played in 7 games mostly on special teams but not as a returner.  In 2008 started 5 games and played in all 13 games, mostly as a returner and wide receiver.   In 2009 he came into his own: he was 3rd on the team for all purpose yards and posted a 21.3 yard per punt return average, which would have been a Pac-10 and Cal record had he had enough attempts.  In 2010 he lead Cal in punt return average and was rated as the 5th best draft eligible punt returner.

3) College Stats: 31 games, 57 catches/764 yards/3 TDs, 42 kickoff returns/851 yards/0 TDs, 31 punt returns/471 yards/1 TD

4) NFL Combine Results: Not invited.  Cal pro-day:  4.39 40-yard dash, 4.24 short shuttle, 7.19 3-cone drill, 9’9” broad jump, 39” vertical, 22 bench.

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: A multi-threat player; Ross is a dangerous return man, averaging 20.3 yards per kickoff and 19.07 yards per punt return (18th in the nation).  Also factors in as a wide receiver; at Cal Ross stretched the field as an outside wide receiver but also has the versatility to play in the slot.  Ross was also sometimes used as a runner, most notably on wide receiver reverses such as in his touchdown against Arizona State University.

Ross has deceptive speed for a player of his size and height; his 4.39 40-yard dash time would have tied him for 3rd fastest among wide receivers with Julio Jones at the NFL combine.  Ross also is very strong as he holds several Cal all time records for conditioning for his position, he can push the pile and is hard to take down, his 22 bench press results are impressive for a wide receiver and again would have placed him 3rd at the NFL combine among wide receivers.

25

March

Is this the Year the Packers REALLY Address Special Teams?

Lip service. That’s all we’ve gotten as Packers fans when it comes to the subject of poor special teams play. It’s not acceptable, we’ll get it fixed, blah, blah, blah.

In 2006, Mike McCarthy came to the Green Bay Packers and brought with him veteran coach Mike Stock to coach special teams. McCarthy was familiar with Stock, as they were on the same staff in Kansas City in the late 90s. They hired Shaw Slocum as Stock’s assistant and his first NFL job after 12 years coaching special teams and linebackers at the college level.

Stock stayed with the Packers through the 2008 season, suddenly deciding to retire a few days after the season and only 10 days after Mason Crosby’s 38 yard game winning field goal attempt versus the Chicago Bears was blocked. The Packers would later lose that game in overtime.

In what would be the first of many coaching changes Mike McCarthy would make that offseason, many have  speculated that Stock was given the option to retire rather than be dismissed. Whatever really happened with Stock, McCarthy decided to give the Special Teams Coordinator job to Shawn Slocum.

That’s when things really started to fall apart.

As many of you probably know, Rich Gosselin of the Dallas Morning news publishes the gold standard of NFL special teams rankings. He looks at 22 different kicking game categories and compliles the individual rankings into an overall ranking. Let’s see how the Packers have done since 2006:

2006    32    Stock/Slocum

2007   8       Stock/Slocum

2008   26     Stock/Slocum

2009    31      Slocum

2010    29      Slocum

Pretty impressive, huh?

To Mike McCarthy’s credit, he was not at all happy with the Packers regressing from the now apparent aberration of a good year in 2007 to their bottom 20th percentile finish in 2008. It was time to move the old guard out and start fresh. Unfortunately, he gave the job to Shawn Slocum.

Much was made of this change and there was a noted emphasis on special teams improvement. As I wrote in this article at the time (Packers eying a special 2009 season), the Packers draft and player moves that season all were made with an eye on special teams play. The plan was to stock the roster with new ST players and let the new coach show them the way to better play.

17

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations – Kickers – Mason Crosby

1) Introduction: The 2010 season would be Mason Crosby’s fourth as a Packer.  Coming off of a disappointing 2009, where Crosby regressed a bit rather than improved, he had some work to do to justify the incentive clause he earned, doubling his salary.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I haven’t been the biggest fan of Mason Crosby. If I’m an NFL coach, my placekicker needs to at least hit 80% of his attempts, which Crosby has never done. I’ve ranted about what I perceive as the unwarranted confidence the Packers show in Crosby ( Mason Crosby: Mediocrity Rewarded). I’ve lampooned Crosby (Mason Crosby Finds the Answer to His Problems).  But despite all of this, I promise to try to stay objective in this evaluation.

2) Profile

Mason Walker Crosby

Position: K
Height: 6-1    Weight: 212 lbs.

Born: September 3, 1984 in Lubbock, TX
College: Colorado (school history)    (Crosby college stats)
Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round (194th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft.

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Be a more consistent kicker. The Packers brought no other kickers into camp,  allowing Crosby to totally focus on correcting his right hashmark and confidence  issues from 2009.  Mike McCarthy expressed full confidence that Crosby would be “just fine” and expected as much.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Crosby came out on fire in the Packers’ first game against the Eagles. He hit field goals of 49 and 56 yards, had 3 PATs and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. His proudest moment was surely in the Super Bowl, hitting a 23-yard field goal with 2:07 remaining for the Packers’ final points.  His biggest disappointment was probably hitting the upright with seven seconds left and a chance to win the game versus the Redskins. It was a 53 yarder with plenty of distance, and his second miss on the day.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Average. Crosby did not have many game-winning opportunities in 2010. He was called upon to salvage three points when the Packers offense sputtered, and did so at 78.6% average, an improvement over 2009′s 75%, but still below the 80% magic number.

16

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations — Kickers — Tim Masthay

1) Introduction: Signed to a reserve/future contract in January of 2010, Tim Mathsay came to the Packers as a  former All-State High School soccer player, who both punted and kicked off for the Kentucky Wildcats. One thing he had never done, however, was punt in an NFL game. He was brought in to compete with another punter who had never had a sniff of the NFL, Chris Bryan, the Australian Rules footballer. To this scenario I,  like most Packers fans, could only shake my head and ask, “Really Ted?”

2) Profile

Tim Masthay

Position: P
Height: 6-2    Weight: 198 lbs.

Born: March 16, 1987 in Pittsburgh, PA
College: Kentucky   (school history)

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player:  The  expectations for Masthay were pretty low; be better than Jeremy Kapinos was and don’t cost the Packers any games. The knock on Masthay was that he had a slow get-off and was inconsistant, pretty typical for a young inexperienced punter. After beating out Bryan in a tight pre-season battle, Mathsay had improved his mechanics but still had much work to do on his inconsistancy.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: Over the first half of the season, Masthay was meeting his low expectations, doing a pedestrian job without making any glaring mistakes. And then came the Jets game. I was at that game, and really couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The Packers had somehow coaxed Ray Guy out of retirement.

Masthay punted 8 times that game, only one was returned (0 yds.) and five were downed inside the 20 yard line. Mike McCarthy called it the finest punting performance he had ever seen and Masthay was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Masthay had almost as good a game in the NFC Championship against Chicage, once again dropping 5 of 8 punts inside the 20.

While Masthay didn’t have any glaring lowlights, he was in a bit of a funk (as were the rest of the Packers) for the Miami and Washington games. masthay had only a 35yd net average for those games, allowing 5 of his 11 punts to be returned for a total of 70 yards.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Nobody appreciates the value of a good punter and winning the field position game more than I do. I have been told by many people how it’s a different league and punters don’t matter any more. Bull.  Over the second half of the season, Masthay was as important to the Packers as any other special teams player.

11

March

Green Bay Packers 2010 Player Evaluations – Offense – John Kuhn

1) Introduction: Kuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhn! It’s surprising that John Kuhn has risen up to be a folk hero with the Green Bay Packers fan base considering it wasn’t even a lock that he would had made the team in 2010. In 2009 the Packers made a highly unusual move by drafting a fullback, and in the 5th round to boot. That created a log jam with incumbents Korey Hall and Kuhn. In a even more unusual move, the Packers chose to retain all 3 for the 2010 season which is surprising since many teams only have one. With the injury to starting running back Ryan Grant in week 1, John Kuhn basically switched to running back for the first half of the season before going back to full back for the second half of the season with the emergence of rookie running back James Starks. But by then Kuhn had not only enamored himself with the fans but also to the offense as he became the primary short yardage back and also clutch goal line receiver for the Packers.

2) Profile:

John Kuhn

Position: FB
Height: 6-0    Weight: 255 lbs.

Born: September 9, 1982 in York, PA
College: Shippensburg

3) Expectations coming into the season for that player: Starter. Kuhn figured to see significant playing time as the starting fullback for the Packers (although Korey Hall typically was listed as the starting fullback Kuhn seemed to be on the field more often), one of the few teams that actually runs the traditional I formation consistently. Kuhn also figured to play on special teams, and even when he became a focal point of the running game he still was on kick offs and as the personal protector for punter Tim Mathsay for punts.

4) Player’s highlights/lowlights: His highlight was undoubtedly during week 4 against the Detroit Lions, where he covered for the fact that Aaron Rodgers was having an off day by essentially running out the clock on his own on the last drive of the game. It is perhaps the only time in the season where they running game came out clutch and won the game for the Packers.