Packers: Evaluating each position on defense ahead of free agency

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Clay Matthews
GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 28: Clay Matthews /
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Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby
DENVER, CO – AUGUST 26: Kicker Mason Crosby /

Special teams

The key special teams positions are set.

Mason Crosby is reliable and a good cold weather kicker. He fits what the Packers need in a kicker. After seeing the problems the Chargers had with their kicking game this past season, it would be wise to stick with the veteran kicker.

Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers /

Green Bay Packers

Punter Justin Vogel had a good rookie season but needs to show more consistency. He has a strong leg but needs to work on directional kicking. His punts usually ended up returnable and in the middle of the field. If it wasn’t for good play from the gunners, mainly Jeff Janis, a few of those kicks could have been returned for big gains.

The big question for special teams is who will be the long snapper. Consistency was Brett Goode’s calling card. But if the Packers want to move on from him they will need to find someone with the same consistency he had.

The return game got a boost from Trevor Davis. Although his decision-making was questionable at best, his speed gave the team something to get excited about. Another offseason learning the position should go a long way if the Packers decide to stick with Davis on returns.

There is always a revolving door on the rest of special teams. Young guys are constantly rotated out. There should be a few holdovers with Jake Ryan, Marwin Evans and Aaron Ripkowski expected to be on the team next year.

Janis is a free agent and may try to look elsewhere for a team that will give him a better chance at playing receiver. If so, the Packers will be down one good gunner.

With the Packers and the NFL in general, the bottom third of the team is in a constant state of flux and that is where most of special teams contributors come from. So each young player will have to come with the knowledge that special teams may be their best chance to contribute to the 2018 team.

Verdict: As is always the case with special teams, it all comes down to coaching.

Davis’ decision-making should get better with experience and will have to if the Packers add a draft choice with return skills. Or Davis could find himself without a role on the team. He has not shown enough as a receiver to warrant a roster spot as a backup return man should the Packers add a draft pick or two to the receiver position.

Vogel should be given the chance to settle into the role and become the reliable punter we have been missing. Jacob Schum spent last year on injured reserve and could be back. I feel having only Vogel in camp would be the better option. Let him work on his craft and give Crosby the same holder from start to finish.

What the Packers do at long snapper will also have to be decided. Goode was solid and steady.  The Packers may want to get younger and more athletic at that position. The importance of a long snapper cannot be lost when the game is on the line.

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Losing Janis could hurt punt return coverage and would need to be filled. Davis played opposite him towards the end of the season and benefitted from the attention Janis got. But special teams on coverage, as well as returns, could be Davis’ ticket to remaining on the roster.