2020 Season in Review - Special Teams
Another day, another position! In our final instalment of reviewing every player at every position, we turn our attentions to the special teams. How did they fair in 2020?
Mason Crosby is the best kicker in the 102 year history of the Green Bay Packers, bar none. Yes, rules have changed. Yes, footballs have changed Yes, fields have changed, but you can only perform with tools and in the environment you are given. Before we start on his 2020 season, Crosby is now the most successful field goal kicker in franchise history, surpassing Ryan Longwell in field goal percentage:
Packers All Time Leader in Field Goal %
81.8% - Mason Crosby
81.6% - Ryan Longwell
77.2% - Chris Jacke
61.5% - Chester Marcol
47.1% - Paul Hornung
Min. 100 Attempts
In February 2020, Green Bay signed Crosby to a 3yr/$12.9m contract extension and Crosby repaid the Packers by being perfect (16 of 16) on field goal attempts – the first perfect season ever by a Packers' kicker – surpassing his own 91.7% (tied with Jan Stenerud). Crosby’s longest field goal was 57 yards against the Lions in Detroit. Crosby finished equal 5th in the voting for the kicker position on the AP All-Pro team. It is bizarre then that he somehow missed 4 extra points – ending the season 59 of 63. This may be down to problems with the snap and hold as much as with Crosby. In any case, he was the first Packers kicker to miss 4 extra points in a single season since Tom Birney in 1980. Crosby also had 48 touchbacks on 82 kick-offs (58.5%) and 1 special teams tackle (1 solo).
Crosby ended the season with 107 points, extending his lead as the Packers all-time leading scorer – he now has 1,682 points – 628 points ahead of second place Ryan Longwell.
In this year of salary cap challenges, the Packers could do a few things with Crosby’s contract in order to create some salary cap space. The most drastic of these would be to release him prior to his roster bonus becoming due in March – this would create $2.5m of cap space in 2021, but this seems like an extremely unlikely option. Why move on from a player who is at the very top of his game? Another alternative would be to convert his roster bonus and some of his base salary to signing bonus, creating up to $0.84m in 2021 cap space.
Molson spent a little bit of time in 2020 on the Los Angeles Chargers Practice Squad before being released. The Packers picked him up and signed him to their Practice Squad on 22nd December (replacing OC Anthony Fabiano), as in-house late season cover for Mason Crosby – insurance for if Crosby suffered an injury. Fortunately, such an insurance policy wasn’t required, and Molson remained on the Practice Squad through the end of the season (without ever being elevated or activated).
Molson was signed to a new contract on 26th January 2021, so we should expect to see him in camp this year.
In his 3rd season, Scott continues to get mixed reviews. He has a big leg but gets criticism for sometimes out kicking his coverage and for his inconsistency. It’s really is difficult to know how to judge Scott – even his numbers tell a mixed story.
In 2020, Scott played in all 16 games and punted just 46 times – remarkably having fewer punts than Aaron Rodgers threw touchdown passes (48). His gross average of 45.5 yards per punt was the best of his 3 year Packer career but conversely, his net average of 37.0 yards per punt was the worst of his 3 year career – make of that what you will. Scott’s 46 punts went for 2,092 yards (62 yard longest) and 17 of his punts were returned for 291 yards, a whopping 17.1 yards per return average. He had placed 15 punts inside the 20 as opposed to just 3 touchbacks – a 15:3 ratio is excellent in this regard.
Across his 3 year career, for all punters with 100+ career punts, Scott is the all-time Packers leader in gross punting average with a 44.6 yards per punt average (just ahead of Jon Ryan’s 44.5 yards per punt).
In addition to his punting duties, Scott occasionally handled kick-offs – having 3 touchbacks – and has the key role of being the holder and field goals and extra points.
Scott will be back in 2021 and will enter camp and pre-season as the no.1 guy – but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get a stiff challenge from either Ryan Winslow or another punter that the Packers bring to camp.
Winslow went undrafted in 2018. He has bounced around the league for a couple of years without sticking anywhere – playing in just 2 games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2019 (6 punts with a 48.5 gross average). He was signed by the Packers to their Practice Squad on 26th December (replacing TE Dax Raymond who was released) and he ended the Regular Season on the Practice Squad.
During the play-offs Winslow was released for 2 days (21st January) – to allow for the signing of Tramon Williams – and then re-signed to the Practice Squad when Dexter Williams was released.
Winslow was signed to a new contract on 25th January 2021, so it will be interesting to see if he can challenge the incumbent J.K. Scott for a 2021 roster spot.
No Longer With the Team
Kaser was the Chargers punter for the whole of the 2016 and 2017 seasons (and 4 games of 2018) but since then has spent time with the Packers, Raiders, and 49ers organisations without playing a single game. In 2019, he was briefly signed by the Packers as cover for J.K. Scott and the same thing happened again this past season (2020), when he was with the team from 21st-23rd November as injury cover. However Kaser wasn’t required on either occasion.
After spending some time on the COVID-19 reserve list prior to the season, 3rd year man Hunter Bradley again played in all 16 games (0 starts). In the fan voting for the Pro Bowl, Bradley was top vote getter but didn’t make the final Pro Bowl roster. This is not surprising as it seemed that his snaps were, on occasion, not as accurate as in previous years. Bradley notched up 1 special teams tackle (an assist).
I would expect Bradley to get competition in camp and pre-season for the long-snapper job on the 2021 roster. He will likely have to beat out a lower paid player in order to win the job. Only time will tell if he is back.
Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog