The final installment of “Packers’ Position Grades” takes a look at the special teams.
Just two seasons ago the Green Bay Packers moved on from special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. The 2014 team ranked dead last in that part of the game, and desperately needed a change.
The 2016 unit looked better, though it still lacks a dominant punter or explosive return man. The biggest constant has been Mason Crosby, who continues to establish himself as one of the league’s best kickers. Overall, the Packers could use more dynamic players on special teams, but the current unit plays well enough where they no longer drag the team down.
Mason Crosby: 26/30 FGs (86.7 percent), long of 53, 44/47 XP
Jacob Schum: 43.2 yards per punt, net of 39.1, 19 inside the 20, 4 touchbacks
Ty Montgomery: 18 returns for 366 yards (20.3 avg), long of 40, 0 touchdowns
Jeff Janis: 6 returns for 119 yards (19.8 avg), long of 28, 0 touchdowns
Micah Hyde: 11 returns for 64 yards (5.8 avg), long of 19, 0 touchdowns
Trevor Davis: 9 returns for 115 yards (12.8 avg), long of 55, 0 touchdowns
*Stats were taken solely from the top two KRs/PRs by number of returns.
The kicking game proved consistent once again. While he ranked 20th in field goals attempted, Crosby connected on nearly 87 percent of his kicks, the eighth best mark in football. He stayed clutch from long range, making 6/8 kicks from beyond 40 yards. The Packers’ kicker did miss three extra points, a career high. His performance in the NFC Divisional Game reminded everyone just how important a clutch, consistent kicker is.
Schum took over the reins from longtime Packer Tim Masthay just before the season began. He got off to a slow start, but got better as the year progressed. He did not finish anywhere near the top of any ranking, but his coverage unit prevented any return touchdowns. The longest punt return against Green Bay went for just 20 yards.
The return game did not look as explosive as it has in the past. The special teams as a whole averaged just 19.7 yards per kickoff return and 9.0 yards per punt return. Those numbers both fell below their opponents’ averages of 26.3 and 9.4 yards, respectively. The totals reveal that Green Bay could use a better returner, as well as better overall kickoff coverage. The coverage team surrendered one kickoff return touchdown, a 99-yarder against the Colts.
Mason Crosby met expectations. While he posted another fantastic year, that is simply what has come to be expected of Crosby. His performance against Dallas will go down in Packers’ lore forever. He uncharacteristically missed three extra points in 2016. B+
Jacob Schum met expectations. Because he made the team late in the offseason, it took him a while to adjust. As the season progressed, Schum got more consistent and used his coverage team well. C+
Ty Montgomery met expectations. While his longest kick return went for just 40 yards, he consistently had decent runbacks. His duties as returner could end as he assumes the starting running back job. B-
Jeff Janis did not meet expectation. As a player whose main positive is straight line speed, Janis still failed to utilize that weapon. He looked indecisive at times, and ranked fourth on the team in kick return average. C-
Micah Hyde met expectations. Due to injuries, Hyde’s importance was higher on defense. He made no crucial mistakes, though he averaged just 5.8 yards per return. C+
Trevor Davis exceeded expectations. While he eventually fell out of good graces with the coaching staff, he looked electric in his limited returns. His nine returns ranked second to only Hyde, and his average gain of 12.8 yards was fifth in the NFL among players with at least five punt returns. His long return of 55 yards easily led the team. B+
The Packers still lack an established return man. Montgomery’s move to running back and Hyde’s impending free agency make the future even more unknown. Schum and the punting game improved over the course of the year, while Crosby remained one of the best in the business. This unit’s not flashy, but it gets the job done. B-