20

May

Packers Jarrett Bush has Managed to Stick Around

Jarrett Bush

Packers CB Jarrett Bush has stuck with the team since 2006.

The pitchforks were out and the torches were lit after the 2009 season. Packers fans wanted cornerback Jarrett Bush off the team.

I admit that I was one of those Packers fans holding a torch high in one hand and a pitchfork in the other. I was sick of seeing Bush stumbling three yards behind a receiver after a double move left him in the dust and led to another touchdown against the Packers.

Ted Thompson has never paid much attention to the pitchfork- and torch-wielding sector of the Packers’ fanbase, and he held true to that philosophy with Bush. Now the undrafted free agent out of Utah St. and claimed by the Packers off waivers from Carolina is one of the longest-tenured Packers, a good special teams player and, dare I say it, somewhat beloved by fans.

I say “somewhat” because if Bush ever ends up playing significantly as a defensive back again, it will probably get ugly and fans will turn on him again. But as long as he remains the blue-collar, hard-working leader of the special teams unit, the love for Bush will only get stronger.

Admit it: When Bush picked off Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl, you slapped yourself and wondered aloud if you just watched Jarrett Bush intercept a pass in the Super Bowl. For the Green Bay Packers. In January of 2011.

That play sticks in my mind to this day. Bush, a player who didn’t even get love from the fanbase of the team he played for, kept plugging away and made an impact when called upon to do so on the biggest stage.

If you were paying attention throughout the 2010 season, you would have noticed Bush making an impact on special teams. On Packers teams not known for their physicality and tackling, Bush goes as hard as anyone on special teams and is never afraid to stick his nose in the middle of the action and attempt to make a tackle.

Ever since Bush has been able to focus on special teams (albeit for one start in the 2012 season opener that didn’t go well), he’s found a place in Green Bay as a veteran and emotional leader.

17

May

Could Fewer Touches Lead to More Production for Packers WR Randall Cobb?

Packers WR Randall Cobb

Packers WR Randall Cobb.

Breakout WR/HB/KR/PR Randall Cobb touched the ball 159 times and amassed a Packers franchise record 2,342 all-purpose yards in 2012.

It was quite the season for the second-year talent out of Kentucky, and very necessary. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson all missed significant time with injuries. Cobb, along with James Jones, stepped up to fill the void left by Jennings and Nelson and helped negate the Packers struggles running the ball.

But 159 touches is a lot for a player who is 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds. Cobb injured his ankle and missed the season finale against the Vikings. He also managed just six catches for 31 yards in two playoff games and was taken off of punt returns against the 49ers, only to see rookie Jeremy Ross muff one deep in Green Bay territory that led to a San Francisco touchdown.

I was at the wild-card win over the Vikings and watched Cobb limp around on that ankle. He was hurting. The explosion wasn’t there.

With Jennings gone, it’s assumed Cobb will have an even bigger role in the offense. His role probably will be bigger, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll touch the ball 159 times again.

Cobb was targeted 104 times in 2012, the most since Jennings’ 125 targets in 2010. If Nelson stays healthy, and Jones repeats his stellar 2012 season, perhaps that number will come down a bit.

The addition of Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin — and the shuffling of the offensive line — could also lead to more success in the running game and fewer touches for Cobb.

Of those 159 touches, 10 came as a halfback. You have to figure he won’t carry the ball any more with Lacy and Franklin around.

As great as Cobb is, a little bit less of a workload might be good for him and ensure that he’s just as productive in the playoffs as he is in week eight.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Packers should purposely look away from Cobb and reduce his role in the offense. He’s too talented to set off to the side.

All I’m saying is that other players stepping up might take some of the burden off the shoulders of the smallish Cobb, making him that much more explosive when he does get the ball.

14

November

Packers Midseason Grades: Special Teams

Tim Masthay

Packers P Tim Masthay has been excellent in special team.

Special teams wraps up our midseason Packers grades report.

I feel like parent-teacher conferences are now over and it’s time for the student (the Packers) to try and find a way to get an ‘A’ on the final report card while the parents (Packers fans) keep nagging the kids to get their homework done and turn off the video games.

If you missed it, here are our grades for the offense and defense.

Kickoffs: A-
When the Packers are kicking off, it’s usually a good time to grab a snack or refill your beverage.

Out of Mason Crosby’s 47 kickoffs, 26 have went for touchbacks, ranking the Packers 10th in touchback percentage. When opponents do return it, they don’t go far, averaging only 24.4 yards with a long of 38.

This unit also forced a fumble that should’ve ended the game against New Orleans, but the refs botched the call.

It appeared that Crosby had at least one angle kickoff against the Cardinals where he tried to use the sideline to pin the returner inside his own 20. It worked and I wonder if we might see more of that down the stretch. You can afford to take some risks like that when you’re coverage has been excellent.

There’s always the chance that Mike McCarthy could call for an onside kick like he did against St. Louis. Crosby is excellent at onside kicks and the Packers recovered his only onside attempt.

On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t leave the couch when the Packers are kicking.

Punts: A-
We’ve see too much of him this season, but it’s nice to know that when Tim Masthay trots on the field, the odds are good that the other team will be stuck with less-than-desireable field position.

Out of 44 Masthay punts, 19 have been fair caught, which is tied for the league lead. When opponents do get a chance to return one, they don’t go far. The Packers only allow 6.3 yards per return, sixth best in the NFL.

Masthay (or, ”Ging,” as Aaron Rodgers calls him), averages 44.5 yards per punt and has dropped 24 punts inside the 20.

Masthay and the punting unit turned things around late in 2010 and were a major reason why the Packers beat the Bears in the NFC championship. They haven’t slowed down since.

6

August

Packers Family Night Faux Pas: Messing with Mason Crosby

Packers Kicker Mason Crosby

Why?

Packers kicker Mason Crosby was having a near-perfect camp. Everything was going swimmingly. I haven’t had to write about him or even so much as mention his name the past week. (Which is the way I like it).

Then the Packers decided to mess with a good thing on Family Night.

Under the guise of “getting used to the new stadium” (with the new south end zone construction), the Packers took the risk of overworking Crosby and messing up his mechanics with way too many 60 yard field goal attempts (four in a row at the end).

Crosby attempted eight straight field goals at the end of practice. here’s how they went:

37yds.   miss

37yds.   miss

53yds.   miss

56yds.   make

60yds.   miss

60yds.   make

62yds.   miss

65yds.   miss

My first question is why? Everyone (coaches, players and fans alike) knows that Crosby has more than enough leg to make long field goals. That has never been brought into question, even by this former critic of Crosby. Accuracy is another matter, of course. Over the course of his career, Crosby has hit 50% of field goal attempts over 50 yards. That’s not awful, nor is it great, but I’m not here to talk about that.

My purpose here is to ask why would the Packers risk Crosby getting hurt or messing up his mechanics by “showing off” in front of the home crowd? Having Crosby expend the extra energy needed to take those long kicks at a meaningless scrimmage is just dumb.   Once he made that 60 yard kick, wouldn’t it have made sense to end his night right then and there? Not to mention allowing Crosby to finish the night on a positive note, a night when he missed way too many kicks after being Mr. Automatic in camp.

My last question is, who’s idea was this? Was this something McCarthy or Slocum had planned? Was it something Crosby did spontaneously and no one stepped up to stop him? Either way, I didn’t like it at all and I don’t think it was a smart thing to do. The Packers need to protect an important asset like <cough> Mason Crosby <cough>.

Anyone else feel the same way?

 

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 Rejoice: Having Bad Kickoff Returners Won’t Matter

The news filtering out of the NFL Meetings today is all good for a team like the Packers.  What’s that? You don’t have a good kick returner? Not a problem!

As reported by Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, The NFL Competition Committee is proposing some major rules changes for next season. Two of them are yet another round of rules changes to kickoffs in an attempt to prevent more serious injuries.

Last season, the NFL prohibited anything more than a two-man wedge on returns. This year, they are strongly considering “eliminating all wedge blocks and shortening the field.” Kickoffs would be moved up to the 35 -yard line and coverage players would be limited to 5 yard running starts. To compensate the return teams, a touchback would be brought out to the 25 yard line instead of the 20.

Committee Chairman Rich McKay explained that the average kickoff was fielded at the 5.5-yard line last year. He also said the average starting position for receiving teams was the 27.6-yard line. “The idea was to change the play, but not to disadvantage either side. We tried to even out the effect to both the kicking team and receiving team,” McKay said.

As far as I’m concerned, you can call this the “Packers rule.” Green Bay can now trot out their assortment of pedestrian kick returners, take a touchback whenever possible and start at the 25.  Hell, Air McCarthy doesn’t really need great field position, now does it?

No, if enacted, these changes would certainly be a boon to the Packers as they are currently constituted. Now,  if we could only do something about punt returns…

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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