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Leaders on special teams remain intact for Packers

But competition for specialist jobs could be coming

K Mason Crosby
K Mason Crosby

This is the eighth and final story in a series that has examined the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft. The series concludes with the specialists.

GREEN BAY – The Packers took all the mystery out of their biggest special-teams decision of 2020 by re-signing kicker Mason Crosby nearly three weeks before he actually became a free agent.

Coming off of arguably his best but also most personally trying season – tying the team record for field-goal percentage amidst multiple family issues off the field – Crosby will begin a new season and new contract as the second-longest tenured player in the locker room and one of its most respected.

He'll simply continue to put his franchise scoring records further out of reach and remain a leader for a special-teams unit that improved considerably over the 2019 season.

That improvement is reflected in two other re-signings, as the Packers also brought back running back Tyler Ervin and safety Will Redmond. Neither is a starter from scrimmage, but Ervin sparked the Packers' return game down the stretch last season while Redmond tied for the team lead in coverage tackles.

Take a look at photos of Packers K Mason Crosby from the 2019 season.

The commitment to players like Ervin and Redmond with niche or backup roles on offense and defense shows an appreciation for the strides made under first-year coordinator Shawn Mennenga last season.

Reducing accepted penalties on special teams by more than 60% (from 26 in 2018 to 10 in 2019) was a significant step in its own right. The Packers gave up more long returns than they recorded, but Ervin's December arrival from the waiver wire gave Green Bay a fighting chance to win the return phase late in the year. He averaged 9.6 yards on punts and 26.7 on kickoffs, with a long of 45.

Five of the Packers' top six tacklers on special teams – Redmond, linebackers Oren Burks and Ty Summers, receiver Allen Lazard and running back Jamaal Williams – return in 2020, but more help could be on the way.

Green Bay heads into the draft with five picks in the final two rounds, and special-teams abilities can factor into the decisions with late-round selections. Summers was the Packers' final draft pick last year, in the seventh round at No. 228 overall, yet he had the biggest impact of any rookie on the return and coverage units.

The Packers also could use those multiple sixth- and seventh-round picks to bring in competition for their other two specialists, punter JK Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley.

A fifth-round pick two years ago, Scott's first two seasons in the NFL have been up and down, with strong starts followed by slumps.

Take a look at photos of Packers RB Tyler Ervin from the 2019 season.

The overall numbers show improvement, with net average going from 38.8 yards to 39.9, touchbacks dropping from nine to four, and punts inside the 20 rising from 19 to 29. And while Scott was able to pull out of a midseason slide in 2019 and look more like his normal self late in the year, one bad mis-hit proved terribly costly in the NFC title game in San Francisco.

Bradley, a seventh-round pick in 2018, hasn't had any disastrous snaps in two seasons, but there have been some shaky moments. Like all specialists, he'll enter 2020 knowing his job isn't secure and he'll be competing with any potential available players across the league, whether they're in Green Bay's camp or not.

But perhaps that punting and snapping competition will be in their midst. From a scoring perspective, as much as the rhythm Crosby has established with Scott as holder and Bradley as snapper can't be discounted, the bevy of late-round draft picks (or usual flurry of undrafted signings) could produce candidates the Packers will want to evaluate and see what they've got.


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