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Packers Need to Kick It up a Notch

Green Bay Packers place kicker Mason Crosby had a forgettable 2018 season.

Crosby missed seven field goals and two extra points during the season and at least half of those came in an awful performance in Detroit against the Lions.

Crosby ranked 24th in the league in field goal percentage in 2018 with 81.1%.  With even a slightly better day in Detroit, Crosby likely finishes closer to the middle of the pack.

Heading into 2019, the Packers have to decide if they're going to add some competition for Crosby.  The other side of the equation is the kickoff.

Green Bay finished 28th in the NFL in touchback percentage with just under 50%.  It's no secret, Crosby wasn't getting the ball out of the end zone much last season.  Couple that with some of the worst special teams coverage the team has had and it all resulted in opposition field position that left much to be desired.

Crosby is 34 years old and while many look at what 46-year-old Adam Vinatieri is still doing in Indianapolis, he's more the exception than the rule.

A kicker's leg diminishes in strength over time and while 34 is far from "old" for a kicker, Crosby seems to be waning in his ability to keep the ball out of the hands of opposing returners.

Crosby enters the last year of his current contract in 2019, set to make $4.85 million, slightly down from 2018.  The money is hardly prohibitive if the Packers want to stick with the 13-year vet.

If the Packers are going to add a leg to compete with Crosby, we also have to hope that general manager Brian Gutekunst learned a lesson after drafting a punter and long snapper in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, last year.  An undrafted free agent or at best a last-round leg is likely going to be ample.

It's not the sexiest position to be talking about in February, but kickers put more points on the board than most skill players when their careers are over with.  The Packers have to have an improved kicking game this upcoming season if they want to return to glory.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (30) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Slim11's picture

Being in the last year of his contract, Crosby will have to improve upon 2018 if he wants to remain in GB. If one looks at Ryan Longwell, we may well see what the future holds for Crosby.

Longwell and Adam Vinatieri extended their careers in a dome. If Vinatieri had signed in GB, I'm not certain he'd still be in the league. Thus, Crosby probably will play for another team in a dome or warmer weather.

For 2019, I suspect the Packers bring in a FA kicker for competition.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I have posted Crosby's stats in the past with his splits. He just isn't very good. He doesn't kick better indoors. He doesn't kick better on the road. He kicks better on grass than turf. Last year when it was less than 40 degrees or over 80 degrees he made 88.9%. Between 40 and 80 degrees he was 73.7%.

What I can say for Crosby is he is quite good on long field goals (over 50 yards), he kicks okay at Lambeau, and I am not overly concerned when he is under pressure. That's worth something.

Home/Away: 89.5/72.2%; 77/80; 82/93; 93/79; 83/80; 85/94; 75/53 (not a misprint); 78/89; 82/76.5; 77/71; 78/81; 68/90

Handsback's picture

I wouldn't spend a draft choice on a kicker unless it's the 7th round and he's the best guy available. That being said, competition is good for everyone.

egbertsouse's picture

In 2017 they had an adequate punter. Even With all the other needs they decided to burn a draft choice to get a punter who was, you guessed it, adequate.

Let’s ignore all the urgent needs and do the same thing with the adequate kicker.

cuervo's picture

I have no issue burning a 5th rounder on a punter/kicker. It is highly unlikely that any 5th round pick will be anything more than a special teams player...if that. The punter they drafted at least has the potential to become a much better punter than the "adequate" punter they jettisoned. The reasons the Packers sucked last year was not because they used a draft pick on a punter or a long snapper.

I'm torn on Crosby, he's not great but he's not terrible either. When you see the revolving door other teams have at the kicker position, and the major issues they have ( see Bears and Vikings last year) having an adequate kicker almost seems OK. Finding a great kicker is the crapshoot of all crapshoots.

jannes bjornson's picture

Scott's hang time is pro level and his Aussie style is sound. He needs to work on his directional punting. It is difficult to determine his true range given the sorry state of the coverage squads the past few years.

sam1's picture

Crosby has been in most cases more than reliable for the most part, but no doubt this time around competition is needed!

Since '61's picture

I would bring in competition for Crosby during this upcoming TC. However, I'm hoping that a new St coach will improve our ST performance overall. Some of Crosby's missed kicks were due to less than perfect snaps and or/holds in 2018.

Also, in the Detroit game no one seemed to realize that he had the wrong shoes on until he changed them and was successful on his final attempt. If that is true it is just one of the many reasons why our ST coach should have been gone long ago.

Our STs have been bad for a long time. I would be OK giving Crosby and the new ST coach at least one season together. Crosby has been good under pressure and that is a factor to be considered before moving on to another kicker. Thanks, Since '61

Skip greenBayless's picture

"Also, in the Detroit game no one seemed to realize that he had the wrong shoes on until he changed them and was successful on his final attempt".

Since 61, do you remember in the movie Shawshank Redemption when the prisoner walked in his cell wearing the warden's dress shoes? He said who looks at shoes? Does anyone here look at the players shoes? I still find that hard to believe that Crosby was wearing the wrong shoes in Detroit. Is that actually true? My question to you or anyone else is this. Isn't Crosby himself responsible for wearing the right shoes? He's been in the league for over 10 years. Surely he knows by now the exact type of shoes to kick in Detroit right? I didn't like Zook either but I do not blame him for that if in fact that story is true. I blame Crosby. For the record, I also agree he needs some competition this season.

Dash

Since '61's picture

Dash - sorry for late reply. Currently traveling. Anyway, Yes I remember the Shawshank scene. I agree that Crosby or somebody should have realized about his shoes if in fact that was the issue in Detroit. Thanks Since ‘61

ILPackerBacker's picture

An adequate kicker does not lose game as MC did twice this year

Old School's picture

I would totally de-emphasize the kicking game. I'd try to win games on offense and defense and just try not to lose them with special teams that are largely populated with UDFAs at the bottom of your roster.

If it's less than 4th and 5, I would rather just go for it on offense unless a FG wins the game. I'd go for two after every TD, unless an extra point wins the game.

Consistently kick the ball into the endzone so you don't have to get a bunch of guys hurt covering returns, or take a stupid penalty like a facemask, or give up a long run.

Demphasize the importance of your kicker. IF he's having a day like Crosby did in Detroit, you just go for it on offense. Don't let him lose the game for you. Stop settling for 3 when you can get 8.

dobber's picture

I actually agree with you on a lot of this. There were studies done recently that the 2pt rate is high enough to cover for the lost points when teams miss (vs. PATs) and come out slightly ahead (so, not really giving up 3 to get 8...more like 7.2 or something), and that the success rate on 4th downs and short are high enough to make that a sound play.

Analytics are ruining football, but this is a case where it points to the fact that you get more excitement (a 2pt attempt or a 4th down attempt) and many of the same effects you talk about.

Old School's picture

Dobber....some more facts to ponder. The Packers were like 20th in the league at 50% on 4th down conversions which means most of the teams in the league converted better than 50% of 4th downs.

The league also converted 20 of 40 two-point conversions.

The bad part about going for it on 4th down is that it's going to put your defense on a short field some times, but the good news is that your opponent will have fewer possessions.

So if it's like 4th and 5 on the 25, rather than trot out Crosby, I say you go for the first down. You might end up with a first down in the redzone….where we score TDs 2/3 of the time.

The math is pretty convincing. You score more points by kicking less. And your opponent scores less because he gets fewer possessions.

splitpea1's picture

This is one of the most ridiculous comments I've ever read. Field goals, extra points, kickoffs, and onside kicks are all important in terms of scoring and field position. Every team needs to find the best kicker that they can. If it's fourth down on your side of the field and you don't convert, you better have an airtight defense to make up for it--which the Packers and most other teams do not. And I would never go for two until I had to because you would always be chasing the easy points that you missed by not converting.

Old School's picture

You might want to actually do a little research before you make statements that highlight your ignorance on the subject. There is an abundance of studies which show that kicking less equals winning more.

Three field goals = 9 points. One TD and two point conversion =8 Plus by extending possessions to take the ball out of the opponent's hands.

Take Tariq Cohen, the best return guy in the division. On average, he returns two punts per game for 25 yards, total. 12.5 in improved field position. But then you start subtracting penalties and injuries and turnovers and you're really not benefitting much. Fair catch and let Rodgers complete a pass and you're in the same spot.

About 80% of the special teams guys are defensive backups, so when they get hurt they're replaced by a practice squad guy and all it takes is an injury to a starter and you've got a practice squad guy on the field in crunch time.

splitpea1's picture

No need to do any research. You're getting caught up in a bunch of stupid statistics and meaningless studies. And you're assuming assuming a successful conversion every time. Good kickers put points on the board and win games in crunch time--that's all I need to know.

Old School's picture

No need to do any research.

Ok.

Fine. Stupid facts like "fewer kicks increases scoring" are meaningless

You know, a fact is still a fact even if you call it a statistic. And my assumption is that the two point conversion is successful half the time, not every time.

Read something. Learn something. Then we'll talk again.

Old School's picture

Same story with punting and punt returns, as well. Stop worrying about returning the ball. Fair catch every punt. Guard against these freakin' trick punt plays that every team in the league runs successfully against us.

Don't fumble, don't get hurt, don't take a stupid penalty that backs you up. Let Rodgers & Co worry about moving the ball upfield.

Since '61's picture

Old School - your comments about de-emphasizing the kicker, returns and STs are viable bit I think that it depends on the quality of your STs.

If the team has an excellent place kicker and or an excellent punter they can be great tools for helping to win a game and the field position battle.
Good coverage units can also aid the field position battle. For example, your team is leading late in the 4Q by 3 point or less with less than a minute remaining. If your opponents has no TOs left and you have a great coverage unit you can KO short of the end zone and make your opponent return the KO and take valuable seconds off the clock.

On the other hand if you have good return teams they can add valuable yards to your field position throughout the game.

If our new ST coach can significantly improve our STs they can make key contributions to winning games rather than being a liability as they have been for much of the MM era. Thanks, Since '61

Old School's picture

The special teams are composed primarily of backups. You have a lot of rookies and UDFAs and stuff. That's the quality of your special teams.

I will guarantee this: If we kick fewer field goals and punt less often we'll score more points and our opponent will score fewer. We'll actually end up with longer possessions, more snaps on offense, and our opponents will get fewer possessions, and fewer snaps on offense.

Ezra's Hotdog's picture

Your comments remind me of the NFC Championship game against Chicago. Tim Masthay and the punt coverage team did an outstanding job of neutralizing Devin Hester.

splitpea1's picture

More stupidity. Every punt can't be fair caught. When the returner has room to roam, that's what he has to do. Intelligent players and coaching will fix the Packers' return game--I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Ferrari Driver's picture

I do see Old School's point about fair catching the ball and it seems the same would apply when returning kick offs that make it to the end zone. I don't recall the percentage of penalties occurring on the receiving team, but they seem awful high to me. Certainly something to think about and I like your thought process.

Old School's picture

OF course every punt can be fair caught. And if he has room to run, and he runs, and fumbles, or we take a block in the back penalty, then that pretty much negates the 10 yards we might make.

Intelligent players? Dude, we're talking about UDFAs and bottom of the roster guys. Some of the guys on our special teams weren't even on the roster when the season started.

Simplest solution is to de-emphasize the kicking game and let your highly paid star players determine the outcome, not Ty Montgomery or Brandon Bostick.

Point Packer's picture

I just want a competent special teams coach with actual special teams experience running the unit. Is that so much for this entitled GB Packer fan to ask for? For Aaron Nagler, probably.

splitpea1's picture

"Dude", most of your comments are so stupid that they're not worth responding to. My mistake. The performance of the entire special teams unit is essential to the success of any team, and that's all there is to it.

Old School's picture

Kick it out of bounds.

"Do Not Kick The Ball To Devin Hester" is the best strategy against that guy.

Fortunately, we don't have to face him anymore.

Point Packer's picture

Can we add JK Scott to the WTF kicking list? Ranking #20 in punting isn't the end of the world, but when you invest a 5th round pick, you'd at least hope said individual could get in the top half of the league. Not sure if it was just our feeble Ron Zook led Special Teams, but dude didn't seem to do that great getting it inside the 10 either.

Skip greenBayless's picture

JK Scott will be a pro bowler very soon. With a year under his belt he'll easily be a top ten punter. This kid is the most talented punter since Ray Guy.

Dash

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