Do the Packers Really Have a Kicker Competition?

Mason Crosby is coming off a down year and in camp with him is Dominik Eberle. But do the Green Bay Packers really have a kicker competition? I'm not so sure they do.

Just like the rest of the Green Bay Packers special teams unit in 2021, Mason Crosby had his fair share of struggles. Not even the reliable veteran was immune to those issues.

Crosby would end the season making only 73.5% of his 34 field goal attempts, which was his worst performance since his abysmal 2012 season when he went 21 for 33. In particular, he struggled on kicks from over 40 yards, making only seven of his 12 attempts. 

However, while at the end of the day, Crosby is the one booting the ball, it's not as if 100% of the blame falls on his shoulders either. There were bad snaps by Steven Wirtel, poor holds by Corey Bojorquez, and a field goal blocking team that broke down on several occasions.

Joining Crosby in camp this summer will be Dominik Eberle, who was signed earlier this offseason and spent a season on the Las Vegas practice squad under Rich Bisaccia. Eberle appeared in one game in 2021 with Houston, making two of his three field goal attempts and all five extra point attempts. 

If you asked Matt LaFleur if Crosby was competing for his job this summer, I'm sure he'd tell you that every player has to earn their spot on the roster and the playing time that comes with it--or something along those lines. But is Crosby's job truly in jeopardy?

I don't really believe so.

For one, it's not at all unusual for Green Bay to have two kickers in training camp. In fact, it's normal and gives Crosby a break over the course of the summer, so he doesn't have to be the one responsible for every field goal or kick-off attempt.

Also, despite the missed field goals last season, LaFleur and the rest of the decision-makers on this Green Bay Packers team know that all of those other problems mentioned above played a role in Crosby's performance.

But most importantly, this is a Green Bay Packers team with Super Bowl aspirations--are they willing to rely on Eberle and his two career field goal attempts to make a game-winner at Lambeau Field late in the season? Perhaps he is ready for that moment; I'm not going to pretend that I know for certain, but there are also a lot of risks involved in having him be the guy.

While, sure, the Packers can save $3.4 million in cap space by cutting Crosby after June 1st, for the reasons mentioned, I don't see Green Bay believing it is worth it. At the end of the day, the Packers are trying to turn around what was an abysmal special teams unit, and cutting Crosby feels like a step in the wrong direction. Freed-up cap space doesn't make field goals.

Now, with all of that said, if the Packers want to explore using punter Pat O'Donnell on kick-offs over Crosby, where he does have 13 career attempts, I'm, all for it.

The soon-to-be 38-year-old Crosby doesn't have the leg strength that he once had--and it's particularly noticeable on kick-offs. 

Like the rest of the Packers' special teams unit, the kick coverage unit had its issues last season, allowing 25.9 yards per return, according to PFF, the second most in the NFL.

Although that specifically isn't necessarily Crosby's fault -- it's not as if, as a kicker, he's an active member of the coverage unit -- but his inability to consistently get the ball through the end zone led to Green Bay's poor coverage team having to defend fairly often. 

Per PFF, the Packers' opponents returned 55% of Crosby's kick-offs, which was the fourth highest rate in football. Meanwhile, Crosby's 43 touchbacks were also the seventh-fewest. 

Ultimately, we will have to wait and see if the Green Bay Packers explore this option on kick-offs because I believe it is a worthwhile discussion. However, when it comes to who will be kicking field goals this season, I don't see that as much of a debate. While there may be an additional kicker on the roster at the moment, I don't see this as a true competition--this job belongs to Crosby for another year. 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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3 points

Comments (19)

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Vforrest's picture

May 30, 2022 at 11:13 am

Good article.

Remaining questions are:

Take the blocked kicks off the table that are because the line is getting their a$$ whipped…that’s not his problem but does Crosby make ALL the misses with a correct hold? Is the “whonky hold really the reason he miss all those?

Is it a Crosby thing not kicking it out of the end zone or a coaching thing? Out of the end zone = 25 yard line but safe. Kicking it to the goal line and tempting a team to run it out and end up short of the 25?

Seems like there are certainly times in a game I’d want to see the safe no return kick it out of the end zone and if he CANNOT do that, it’s an issue!

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Leatherhead's picture

May 31, 2022 at 10:34 am

Crosby had a very powerful leg early in his career, and unless he's just gotten weaker, I have to believe he's kicking short because that's what he's told to do.

I don't know if he makes all those FGs with a better hold, but I do know he didn't miss a single FG in 2020....with a different holder. We call the punter a holder, but maybe we should rethink that and call him a holder who also punts, because every time he takes the field as a holder, points are on the line, and he probably plays more snaps as a holder than he does as a punter.

Odd Fact: Green Bay and Minnesota each kicked off 92 times last year, but Green Bay had a lot more kicks returned than Minnesota did. More than twice as many.

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PhantomII's picture

May 30, 2022 at 11:24 am

We need a kickoff kicker that can easily kick it out of the back end of the field of play. We need a punter that can punt it out of bounds at the 5 yd. line and away from the return threat. I don't necessarily believe Crosby needs to kick off as anyone can kick off who can boot it out the back end. He needs to make his kicks thru the uprights. He no longer has the leg to kick-off .

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croatpackfan's picture

May 30, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Well, there is always question of "father time" that makes influence on players.

If Mason Crosby lost a lot of his leg strenght and he can not kick the ball deep in the end zone (and we all witness that!), he has issue also with precision when he kick FGs from medium to long distance. That claim comes from pure physics. When you have to use more available strenght to kick the ball, you will lose some precision in the kick. So, I do believe that some Mason's missed FGs lay on others (LS or holder), some missed FGs are produce of his loss og strenght.

Also, some of blocked FGs (in general) are also product of low trajectory of the kicked ball. That low trajectory is product of need to kick ball with less strenght, as low trajectory need less energy to reach needed distance.

So, I'm not sure that Mason will come out as winner from the competition, because of the obvious loss of strenght in his kicking leg.

I also agree with Gil that there is no necessity for Mason to perform kick offs, but thete is still question of precision of his long range FGs.

I might be wrong, but we realy have no information of the status how big is the problem. Also I believe JJ Molson had better record through 2021 TC than Mason when we look at 45 yards or longer FGs.

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PhantomII's picture

May 30, 2022 at 12:34 pm

Also every snap on ST was RUSHED because of wrong blocking personnel like DL blocking on ST...Genius. Every snap and kick punting or Xtra point was rushed at some point or a basic kickoff never made it out the back end zone which made it returnable.. A new ST coach will be huge. Using more starters will also help. People that block every down being used to block....what a concept. Not using your starting RB on ST.... ESPECIALLY IN PLAYOFFS...

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Ya_tittle's picture

May 31, 2022 at 12:56 pm

Wasting Dillon on ST in the playoffs was the bonehead movie of that game, other than not letting Yosh start at LT

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MarkinMadison's picture

May 30, 2022 at 05:17 pm

I could be wrong, but I think all of the excuses are just that: excuses. Crosby is a big part of the problem, and it is unlikely that he will be significantly better this year than last year. But that is just like, my opinion man.

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PeteK's picture

May 30, 2022 at 06:46 pm

I agree Mark, this is something to watch carefully. A poor kicker could wreck havoc on the season.

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Bitternotsour's picture

June 01, 2022 at 01:11 pm

Crosby is very much like Rodgers in assessing blame anywhere but on his own shoulders. The holder, the blocking, the snap, etc. Never that he kicked it poorly, failed to adjust, or just duffed it.

He's come back from awful seasons before, but the clock is ticking, and he cost the team more than points with his leg, he cost them field position, and possession.

We all know that MLF doesn't get to make personnel decisions, or run his own offense, that work was added to his starting quarterback's portfolio.

If Crosby kicks better in practice and during the preseason he should win the job. If he doesn't and he keeps his job, well that's just pathetic.

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relleum61's picture

May 30, 2022 at 09:07 pm

The "competition" between Crosby and Emberle will reveal the extent of how much control Bisaccia has over the special teams. Emberle followed Bisaccia to Green Bay and Molson is gone after spending last year with the Packers. That provides a hint that Bisaccia gets to have a majority of the influence on who stays or who goes. This will be one of the more interesting battles to watch in camp of Emberle is out kicking Crosby on a daily basis. We could be watching the end of the Crosby run in GB if Emberle matches Crosby on fg accuracy and provides more consistent kickoffs. Bisaccia will have an interesting decision to determine if Father Time has caught up to Crosby and if Emberle is ready.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 31, 2022 at 02:34 am

Eberle missed a 52-yarder, made a 51-yarder and made a 25-yarder.

Hard to tell about kickoffs. Eberle averaged 63 yards while Crosby averaged 64 for the season. In Eberle's one game, he had a touchback, a kickoff to the one (17 yd return to the 18), one that was two yards deep and was returned 23 yards (penalty pushed it out to the 36), a 58 yarder (with 24 seconds remaining, so a squib or pooch kickoff of some kind) that was returned to the 24 yard line. Eberle had a 60-yarder to the five that was returned to the 36. Not a good result, but I don't know whose fault that was. Eberle had a touchback. Eberle kicked another to the five that was returned 21 yards. Another touchback. There were no long returns though some penalties pushed the opponents starting field position out a few times.

I wouldn't hold missing a 52-yarder against a kicker off a small sample size. He was 1 of 2 from over 50. Kickoffs: I have no idea from looking up the stats: I think one would have to watch the game. My source didn't have weather conditions and I am too lazy to look. The game was in Houston on December 26, 2021. Probably wasn't frigid by any means. Not sure what the wind was like. I don't know if the missed FG was short or offline.

Verdict: Yeah, I don't know.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 31, 2022 at 08:03 am

It’s not just the length of the kickoffs. It’s also the hang time and placement.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 01, 2022 at 03:06 am

Very true. I should have added that my source didn't include hang-time. There were no long returns, but there were two penalties against Eberle's team.

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dobber's picture

May 31, 2022 at 07:43 am

"Do the Packers really have a kicker competition?"

While 2 still wants to play and 12 is on the roster, probably not.

"Like the rest of the Packers' special teams unit, the kick coverage unit had its issues last season, allowing 25.9 yards per return, according to PFF, the second most in the NFL....Per PFF, the Packers' opponents returned 55% of Crosby's kick-offs, which was the fourth highest rate in football. "

Opponents know they've got a decent shot at getting past the 25 on a return against the Packers, so as you rewatch games and the Packers kickoff, ask yourself whether most teams would've taken the TB on a given kick into the endzone or run it out? There's a cascade effect when your coverage units are bad: fewer TBs, more big plays, and more guys getting dinged up.

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egbertsouse's picture

May 31, 2022 at 07:48 am

I’m still wondering why they kept JJ Molson on the practice squad all season and protected him a number of times instead of other players and then dumped his butt about a month ago. Sometimes I think this FO makes decisions based on bar dice.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 31, 2022 at 08:01 am

Because we needed a Covid backup with experience.

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PatrickGB's picture

May 31, 2022 at 07:59 am

“Packers can save $3.4 million in cap space by cutting Crosby”. However, they would still have to pay his replacement. Sure it might be less but is it worth giving up on a kicker who is used to the crazy winds at home field? Maybe, maybe not? The team is doing proper diligence by bringing in competition and sharing duties. Yet if the special teams could tackle a returner short of the 25 then kicking it out of the end zone is a non issue.

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Packerpasty's picture

May 31, 2022 at 08:30 am

his short kickoff's drove me crazy, and I'm still crazy because of those!!

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hhsbaseball's picture

June 01, 2022 at 08:54 am

In short, his short kickoffs make me really short tempered with the rest of my short Packers fans.

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