Packers Position Preview, Special Teams: Coverage Groups Have Questions

Packers Position Preview, Special Teams: Coverage Groups Have Questions

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Packers Position Preview, Special Teams: Coverage Groups Have Questions

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This is the next in a series of position previews as the Green Bay Packers prepare to open training camp to prepare for the 2020 NFL season.

The Packers appear set at kicker, punter and long snapper as they head into training camp. The big questions surround coverage teams and who will return kicks and punts for the Packers this season. Those jobs are wide open and the team needs to improve those areas this season.

Here is a look at the Packers special teams depth chart as the team prepares to open training camp:

Kicker: Likely Starter: Mason Crosby

Crosby is coming off a career year for accuracy after making 22-of-24 field goals for a 91.7 percent accuracy rate. He came through with some clutch kicks to beat the Lions twice last year and remains a reliable part of the Packers special teams.

Crosby accomplished this despite a difficult season off the field that included serious family health issues.

The Packers all-time leading scorer will not face any competition in camp. His consistency and ability to kick well in the tough weather at Lambeau Field late in the season make him a valuable member of the team.

Punter: Likely Starter: JK Scott

Scott has a strong leg and had some good games for the Packers last season but needs to improve his consistency. He got off to a strong start and was a difference maker in the Packers 10-3 win in Chicago in the season opener but went through a mid-season slump before recovering late in the season.

His final numbers last year included a 44.0 yard average on 77 punts, down slightly from his rookie average of 44.7.

The Packers aren’t bringing in any competition for Scott in camp. The talent is there, but he needs to be more consistent to establish himself as one of the better punters in the league and as the long-term answer at the position for the Pack.

Return Specialist: Likely Starter: Tyler Ervin

The Packers return game was a big problem area before the Packers signed Ervin for the final four games of the season. The Packers had negative punt return yards for the entire season before Ervin stepped in and gave the return game a spark. He averaged 9.6-yards per punt return and 26.7-yards per kick in return over the final four games of the season.

Ervin’s ability to change direction, fake out defenders and make them miss make him a dangerous return man.

He also contributed on offense occasionally, running jet sweeps and screen passes that were effective and kept the chains moving.

Ervin is the favorite to maintain the return job, but there are several other players in camp who will get a chance to audition for the position. The lack of preseason games and reduced practice time in training camp will probably work in Ervin’s favor so far as retaining his job as the team’s return specialist.

Long Snapper: Likely Starter: Hunter Bradley

Bradley enters his third season as the Packers long snapper. The best long snappers are guys who are rarely mentioned because they are usually only referred to when they make mistakes. Bradley has been consistent as the Packers long snapper and has not made any major gaffes in either of his two seasons with the Pack. He has made one tackle on coverage teams each season.

The Packers haven’t brought in anybody to compete with Bradley this year so his job is likely secure for 2020.

The Packers coverage teams improved slightly in 2019 but still need more work heading into the new season. Some roster spots will be determined by who does well on special teams and the lack of preseason games will probably hurt this part of the team early in the year.

The kick return coverage ranked 22nd in the league, which was slightly better than a year ago while the punt return coverage was 25th. If the Pack can just get to the middle of the league in these areas, it could help them win another game or two.

Outlook:

The Packers are set at kicker, punter and long snapper entering camp. Ervin is the odds on favorite to retain the return specialist position although there will be some competition in camp.

The big question remains the coverage squads. The Packers need to be better at covering kicks and punts. It’s been too long since the Pack exceled in this area.

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