Most Likely UDFA To Make the Roster, Jack Coco Has A Chance To Solve Packers Misfortunes With Long Snappers

Jack Coco battles for a roster spot with incumbent Steven Wirtel

Based on the start of training camp, no rookie undrafted free agent has a better chance of making the initial 53-man roster than Jack Coco. A late roster addition and with an unusual path to the NFL, the long snapper has a real shot to beat incumbent Steven Wirtel to secure the roster spot.

"I've been working my whole life to have an opportunity like this," Coco said during the offseason program. "My hard work from high school to college, changing positions multiple times. Always having that skill of long snapping has really paid off. It gives me an opportunity to come here and compete for a spot."

In fact, Coco is inexperienced, but his upside and versatility convinced the Packers to give him a chance. And he has been a frequent participant with the starters on special teams drills, which means he might have an advantage to make the roster.

Jack Coco was an offensive lineman early on, at Johns Creek High School, in Georgia. That's where he started to long snap. He entered Georgia Tech as a walk-on lineman and long snapper in 2017, and became the starter in his second season there. But there was a caveat: he only snapped for field goals and extra points, not for punts. And that was the reality for three seasons. In 2021, he finally got a scholarship and was moved to tight end. He played some offensive snaps, mostly as a blocker.

A physical athlete, he decided to show versatility in order to get an NFL shot.

"At pro day, I was doing whatever I could possibly do to get anyone's attention. It just happened that long snapping was that ticket," Coco said.

He was invited to participate in the Packers rookie minicamp right after being undrafted — there were two long snappers, Coco and Cameron Kaye. On May 18, the chance was consolidated: Jack Coco signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Green Bay Packers.

Now, during training camp, Coco has a real challenge. He needs to long snap after a year without doing so and snap for punts for the first time in his life. But he is motivated to make it happen.
"I just needed a chance to get myself in the door, and I've done that. Now, it's just one step ahead, nose to the grindstone, keep going, keep pushing forward and work my ass off to give myself an opportunity."

Recent problems

The Green Bay Packers have struggled to find a good long snapper since letting veteran Brett Goode walk after the 2017 season. Goode played in Green Bay from 2008 to 2017, but the team decided they needed someone more athletic. Since then, the Packers have even used a draft pick to select Hunter Bradley, and he was the starter for three and a half seasons, but never established himself as the answer. In November, he was released, and Steven Wirtel, who had spent the whole season on the practice squad, got a chance on the active roster. His performance, though, has been underwhelming — including a failed block in the punt who cost the Packers the playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.

And it's not just a matter of finding good long snappers. Five players who spent some time with the Packers finished last season with starting jobs elsewhere: JJ Jansen (Carolina Panthers) and Clark Harris (Cincinnati Bengals), who had chances in Green Bay in the end of the 2000s, but also Taybor Pepper (San Francisco 49ers), Rick Lovato (Philadelphia Eagles), and Zach Triner (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), who had recent experiences with the Packers.

The expectation now is that, with special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia's input, the Packers are finally able to find a long-term solution. And Jack Coco has the first chance.

Photo: Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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Comments (16)

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PatrickGB's picture

August 02, 2022 at 08:56 am

That’s been a position of weakness for some time. I was doubtful when I read that Coco had little or no experience snapping on punts yet he seems to be doing ok so far. My fingers are crossed that we may finally have fixed the LS issue.

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Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2022 at 09:47 am

I want my LS to be able to block on his own snaps. In fact I’d regard it as essential—we saw why last year. However, the key for a LS has to be the ability to snap accurately and consistently. To my mind, Wirtel was not that last season. Can Coco? We will see. If he can, his blocking experience will be a big plus.

My tip for a UDFA is Gafford (ok, he wasn’t ours or a UDFA this year). While I am eating a little crow and admitting that SJC has taken strides at least in shorts and looks like a real prospect in the middle at this point, hands down the best DB outside the starting 5 has been Gafford so far.

Not overlooking Ento in coverage on the outside either or forgetting the injured Nixon whom we brought in as a ST leader, but Gafford just keeps making plays. That’s ignoring his potential as a gunner and returner. Just on D, Gafford has so far looked well worthy of a roster spot whether on the edge or in the middle.

You can’t ignore his kind of speed easily if he continues to show up as a footballer. If he can contribute value on STs then that would about wrap a place up, and might do alone, but early on, it’s on D that he’s made his case.

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Leatherhead's picture

August 02, 2022 at 12:23 pm

I've watched "the play" a gajillion times. You aren't allowed to line up a guy right on the snapper's head, and the penetration came to Wirtel's left. Unless this is one of the ways the "game has changed", I think you protect to the inside, meaning the guy to Wirtel's left is every bit as culpable as Wirtel, maybe more.

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Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2022 at 01:47 pm

2 wrongs don’t make a right?

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LLCHESTY's picture

August 02, 2022 at 02:35 pm

According to a STs coach that a writer talked to after the game Black was the biggest culprit on that play. His job was to look inside out and he didn't.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 02, 2022 at 06:07 pm

Maybe that’s one of the reasons that he is gone.

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dobber's picture

August 02, 2022 at 09:48 am

Stirling was my early choice for a UDFA to make the 53 at S. Seemed like he had enough background, and the path to the 53 was the clearest for him. Whoops.

Steer clear if I start offering advice on investments...

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Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2022 at 10:21 am

Betting on UDFAs before the last preseason game is in the books is like tossing your chips onto a roulette table blindfolded. It’s just more fun in my view.

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mnbadger's picture

August 02, 2022 at 12:19 pm

nothing against Wirtl, but let me be the first to say that I'm cookoo for Coco's snaps!
GPG

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PatrickGB's picture

August 02, 2022 at 06:08 pm

Got to give you props for that pun.

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HarlanHuckleby's picture

August 02, 2022 at 12:53 pm

I say if he shows the most promise of the two keep him. Obviously no one wants any mistakes, but if he’s locked in snapping FGs and XPs but has a few gaffes snapping punts his first year I think that’s a liveable situation.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 02, 2022 at 01:32 pm

Coco has been staying after practice to work on snapping. I like that he was a former lineman and TE. That means that he has a good idea on how to block. Yet one of the other tasks of punt snapping is to be able to quickly get downfield to cover. I think that I read (I could be wrong) that was the strength of the other snapper. In any case consistency is key.

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Coldworld's picture

August 02, 2022 at 01:50 pm

In the end I trust RB to decide and I trust the new punter to not only know but communicate with him, but I do feel that Wirtel was worse than his predecessor.

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PatrickGB's picture

August 02, 2022 at 06:05 pm

I think so too. And it came at key moments.

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WestWi_Packfan's picture

August 02, 2022 at 05:13 pm

I thought the release of Bradley was perhaps premature as Wirtel has, by most accounts, been worse. With that said it looks like Coco has the edge here as last years snappers, probably had something to do with Crosby's worst season. I think this is on La Fleur's and Gute's mind, so it wont take much for Coco to unseat Wirtel.

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Andy Schraufnagel's picture

August 02, 2022 at 08:43 pm

Let's give Rick Lovato his due. He went from working in a sandwich shop, to our starting LS after Goode got hurt. After we cut him for Bradley the next season, he's been snapping at a high level for the Eagles and even went to the Pro Bowl in 2019. I would say the front office missed on that one and it deserves mentioning in more detail when discussing the LS woes of the last decade. Also, Rick's younger sister- Demi Lovato, is pretty hot and I would have liked seeing her at Lambeau Field the past 6 years!

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