All Hands on Deck for Green Bay Packers Special Teams Unit v. Ravens

Dec 5, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay (13) returns a kick-off against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay (13) returns a kick-off against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Unfortunately, poor special teams play is not something that’s new to the Green Bay Packers. In fact, it’s been common practice for them to rank in the bottom third, or near the very bottom, of several special teams metrics each season.

However, despite all the struggles that have occurred on special teams over the years, this year’s Green Bay Packers team is making a valiant run at being the worst of the bunch.

By both PFF and Football Outsider’s metrics, the Green Bay special teams unit ranks 32nd through Week 14. But we don’t need advanced stats to tell us that; we’ve seen plenty of blunders with our own eyes.

Mason Crosby has already missed nine field-goal attempts this season, which is the most since he missed 12 during the 2012 season. But it’s not only Crosby who has had issues on the field-goal unit; we’ve seen bad snaps, poor holds, and some very porous blocking as well.

On kickoffs, the Packers are allowing 25.9 yards per return, which is the fourth most in football, according to PFF ($$). And as much of an upgrade as Corey Bojorquez has been at punter, Green Bay’s punt coverage unit is still allowing 13.4 yards per return, including a 97-yard touchdown to Jakeem Grant on Sunday, which is the second-most in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Amari Rodgers has been indecisive returning punts, which has cost him yards, and he has also struggled to field several attempts cleanly. On kick returns, Malik Taylor just fumbled a return attempt out of bounds at the 5-yard line, and he ranks 32nd in average yards per return.

"“We’ve got to continue to work,” coach Matt LaFleur said following the Bears game via SI. “We’ve got to look at the tape, we’ve got to get things corrected. I’ll be the first to tell you that, yeah, is there some things that we have to clean up as coaches? No doubt about it. But we’ve got to execute better, as well.”"

Now, I’m sure I left some things out, but you get the point–this unit has been quite bad, and it all culminated with a performance against Chicago that saw a season’s worth of special teams miscues happen in just one half of football.

Against a better opponent, those mistakes could have cost the Packers the game. Looking ahead to Green Bay’s opponent this week, the Baltimore Ravens, who have arguably the best special teams unit in football, errors in the third phase could very well be the difference between a win and a loss.

John Harbaugh made a name for himself as a special teams coordinator before he took over as the Ravens’ head coach, and because of that, Baltimore has consistently been one of the better special teams units in the game with Harbaugh at the helm. The Ravens are currently Football Outsiders’ top-ranked special teams unit.

They, of course, have Justin Tucker as their kicker, who has a career field-goal percentage of 90.9 percent, and he set the NFL record by making a 66-yard attempt earlier this season. Overall in 2021, Tucker is 28 of 30 and 6 of 6 from 50-plus yards.

On kickoffs, the Ravens are allowing only 17.4 yards per return–the fifth-fewest in football. Their punt coverage unit has been just as dominant, giving up only 6.3 yards per return this season, which again, is the fifth-fewest in the NFL.

On return duties, Baltimore has the electric Devin Duvernay, whose kick return average of 24.2 yards is the eighth-most among eligible returners this season, while he leads all punt returners with an average return of 14.4 yards.

Again, you get the point. The Ravens special teams unit is very good and when up against Green Bay it could be a recipe for disaster.

On Monday, Matt LaFleur told reporters that “it’s all hands on deck” when it comes to the special teams unit–meaning, Green Bay will look for special teams contributions from some of their regular starters, including Rasul Douglas and Allen Lazard. LaFleur also mentioned that Brian Gutekunst is scouring other team’s practice squads as well as any free agents in an effort to see if there is any help out there for this struggling special teams unit.

If the play of the Green Bay Packers special teams unit does not begin to improve — and by improve, I don’t mean that they need to rank in the top-10; I mean just don’t be dead last — the errors that continue to pile up could very likely determine the outcome in one of these final games, and that includes the playoffs where mistakes are magnified.

As LaFleur said, it’s all hands on deck moving forward, and that rings especially true this week as the Green Bay Packers take on the league’s best special teams unit.