Green Bay Packers Special Teams Not Even Close to Being Special

Green Bay Packers Special Teams
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In Sunday’s loss against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Green Bay Packers discovered several things. First, and the most obvious, the Packers offense is not nearly as good without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The second observation is that the Packers might finally have a defense that can hold its own. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s Packers tenure might have started out rocky, but he is getting the defense to play at a high level. Finally, the last observation is one Packers fans should be accustomed to. That being that the Green Bay Packers special teams are still dismal.

Green Bay Packers Special Teams Continue to Falter

Shawn Slocum, Ron Zook, and Shawn Mennenga all have something in common. All three failed to get the Green Bay Packers special teams to play at an adequate level. The former Green Bay Packer special teams coordinators failed and all three were shown the door.

Along with poor showings, Zook and Mennenga also had something in common. Both had Maurice Drayton as their assistant during their tenure. That common trait made the decision for Matt LaFleur to promote Drayton to the Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator when he fired Mennenga a curious one.

If Drayton had not brought something different while working under Zook and Mennenga, why would he now as the Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator? It is a legitimate question, especially after what fans have witnessed this season from the special teams.

The Green Bay Packers special teams have continued to perform poorly this season. On Sunday, against the Chiefs, that was showcased once again. Because of that, Maurice Drayton has been placed on the hot seat.

Protection on Field Goal and Extra Point Attempts Has Become a Major Issue

Except for one season, kicker Mason Crosby has been one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL. But this season, Crosby has struggled. One of the reasons for this has been the lack of protection on field goals and extra-point attempts.

This season, Crosby has had two field-goal attempts blocked. On several missed attempts, because of protection breakdowns, Crosby’s kicks were affected. Drayton, who has become a favorite of Packers reporters for his openness, said that it would be corrected. However, issues have continued.

Drayton switched out part of the protection. He made the switch from using offensive linemen on the edge to using defensive linemen. The new personnel still hasn’t corrected the issue. That was highlighted on Sunday against the Chiefs. Defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster whiffed on his block which led to a blocked field goal. Not only is Lancaster not getting things done on the defensive line, but now his poor play has carried over to the Green Bay Packers special teams.

Nine games into the 2021 season and the Packers are continuing to fail to protect on field goals and on extra points. The promotion of Drayton was based on the idea that he would bring something new to the special teams. If he had some new ideas, now would be the time to bring them up.

Change at Long Snapper and Punter

In 2018, general manager Brian Gutekunst spent a fifth-round pick on punter J.K. Scott and a seventh-round pick on long snapper Hunter Bradley. Both picks turned out to be massive failures by Gutekunst.

The Packers parted ways with Scott at the end of this year’s training camp. The Packers had enough of his inconsistencies. Fortunately for the Packers they were able to find a better option. Gutekunst made a trade with the Los Angeles Rams bringing over Corey Bojorquez. Since coming over, Bojorquez has been a major weapon, something Scott was supposed to be when Gutekunst used a fifth-round pick on him. However, while he has been a weapon punting, Bojorquez has struggled as the Packers holder.

After several seasons of poor snaps, the Packers finally cut bait with Bradley. Another failed pick by Gutekunst, Bradley never snapped at the level he was expected to. Gutekunst finally admitted that the Bradley pick was a mistake and cut him last week. He was replaced on the roster by Steven Wirtel, who was promoted for the practice squad.

Wirtel debuted on Sunday against the Chiefs and again, the results were the same. Wirtel struggled with his rotation on his snaps. Along with that, Bojorquez struggled to rotate the ball, which forced Crosby to kick the ball with the laces in the wrong placement.

However, Crosby is not without blame.  This season, Crosby has made just 13 kicks on 19 attempts. Along with that, he has missed one of his 23 extra-point attempts. The Green Bay Packers special teams need better play from their snapper and holder. But instead of complaining about them, Crosby needs to adjust and start making kicks.

New Returners, Same Results

The Packers have not had a punt and kickoff returner who can cause some damage since early on in Randall Cobb‘s career. Since then, the Packers have rolled out returners who have not created much fear for opposing special teams.

Maurice Drayton was hoping that the trend of lackluster returners for the Packers would change this season. The Packers had high hopes for Kylin Hill as their primary kickoff returner and Amari Rodgers as their primary punt returner going into this season. But those hopes have yet to be realized.

Hill had a couple of good returns early in the season. However, a costly decision to bring out a kick from the endzone against the Arizona Cardinals cost Hill the rest of his rookie season when, on the play, he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Against the Chiefs, the Packers used Malik Taylor as their kickoff returner. The same Malik Taylor who returned kicks in 2020 and was one of the most ineffective returners in the NFL.

Rodgers has all the tools to be a solid returner. But so far, those tools have not made him a capable punt returner. He has had a couple of solid returns, but he has also struggled in his decision-making and looks shaky catching the ball. Sunday was a prime example of this. While he did have a nice 15-yard return, he also failed to feel a punt and also bobbled another attempt. With Rodgers non-existent on the offense, and shaky on punt returns, it is curious why the Packers do not make him a healthy scratch on game days.

Big punt and kickoff returns can change the momentum of a game. But the Green Bay Packers special teams do not have a returner, on either kickoff and punt, that can do that.

Drayton Needs a Massive Change Quickly or Drayton Might Be Shown the Door

Poor special teams play can cost good teams victories. That is not coach talk, that is reality. The Packers have one of the best teams in the NFL. However, they have one of the worst special teams.

Maurice Drayton was given a promotion, a promotion some would question he truly earned. Joe Barry has the defense playing well. When Aaron Rodgers returns, the Packers offense should be clicking on a high level again. But the one area they are extremely weak at is special teams. The unit Drayton is in charge of.

The clock is ticking on Drayton. He is running out of time when it comes to turning around the Green Bay Packers special teams unit. If they continue to struggle, it might be a one-and-done season for Drayton as the Packers special teams coordinator.

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