Brian Gutekunst in Search of Special Teams Upgrades for Green Bay Packers

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 15: Peter Kalambayi #58 of the Houston Texans in action against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 15: Peter Kalambayi #58 of the Houston Texans in action against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers special teams unit is bad. Like really, really bad.

By PFF’s grading system and Football Outsiders’ metrics, the Packers special teams unit currently ranks 32nd in the NFL, although it’s not as if we need rankings to tell us that this unit has struggled, which is putting it mildly.

Over the last two games alone, we’ve seen a punt return for a touchdown, a fumbled kickoff out of bounds, a delay of game penalty, a running into the returner penalty, and a holding penalty. But wait, there’s more. Even as good as Corey Bojorquez has been, he shanked a punt. There have also been poor snaps, a missed onside kick recovery, and a kickoff out of bounds.

As bad as that sounds, chances are I missed something as well. There have been more special teams errors in the last two games by the Green Bay Packers than what many teams will have over the course of an entire season.

"“I think we’re getting to that point where it’s all hands on deck,” LaFleur said following the Bears game via Packers News. “We’re going to have to ask guys to maybe do a little bit more.”"

By “all hands on deck,” LaFleur means that we will start to see more special teams contributions from regular starters on offense and defense. We already saw this against Baltimore with Rasul Douglas, Allen Lazard, and Aaron Jones all taking special teams snaps.

Sure, that certainly helps, but the risk of injury to those players increases as well.

In addition to utilizing starters on special teams, LaFleur also mentioned last week that GM Brian Gutekunst was scouring other teams’ practice squads as well as looking into any free agents that could help provide this struggling unit with a boost.

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Realistically there is no magic addition that is all of a sudden going to turn this Green Bay Packers special teams unit around–they are who they are at this point. But hopefully, an upgrade or two along with just simply some improved play from those already on the roster would result in fewer errors.

Although special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton is taking a lot of heat — and rightfully so — the players have to execute as well, which they certainly have not been. As the old saying goes, “you get what you emphasize,” and while I’m not going to pretend like I know how much time Green Bay has spent working on special teams in practice this season, the results suggest that there hasn’t been a lot.

In an effort to perhaps provide this unit with a boost, the Green Bay Packers did make an addition on Monday, signing linebacker Peter Kalambayi to the practice squad.

Kalambayi was a sixth-round draft pick by Houston in 2018 and has only seen 133 career defensive snaps during his first three NFL seasons, according to PFF ($$). During that span, he logged 15 total tackles and allowed seven receptions on eight targets and 12.1 yards per catch.

But linebacker play is not likely the reason that the Packers signed Kalambayi. Instead, it’s because of what he could add to the special teams unit. Over that same three-year span, Kalambayi was on the field for 834 special teams snaps or roughly 70 percent of the Texans’ special teams snaps during that time–participating in both coverage and return units.

Listed at 6’3″ – 254 pounds, Kalambayi tested very well at the NFL Combine, posting a RAS of 8.76 and a 40-yard dash time of 4.57 seconds.

Now, having said all of that, there is no guarantee that we see Kalambayi on the special teams unit as he is still on the practice squad, after all. But less than a week after LaFleur told reporters that Gutekunst was looking elsewhere for potential upgrades, it looks like he has made one of those additions.

As good as this Green Bay Packers team is this season, the types of special teams miscues that we’ve seen over the course of the year, and even more so in the last two weeks, are absolutely reasons why they could be sent home come playoff time. This unit doesn’t have to be great by any means, but something must change.