Q&A With Special Teams Coordinator Mike Stock


*After seven games the Packers rank second in the NFL in opponents' average starting field position after kickoffs at the 23.5-yard line. Green Bay ranks fifth in the NFL by holding opponents to just a 5.8-yard average on punt returns.

Cornerback Will Blackmon ranks fourth in the NFC with an 11.3-yard average on 16 punt returns, including a 76-yard return for a touchdown in the season-opening win over Minnesota.

Kicker Mason Crosby has connected on 11-of-14 field goal attempts and is tied for fourth in the NFL with 10 touchbacks on kickoffs. Punter Derrick Frost has averaged 43.8 yards on 28 punts with a 37.6-yard net.

In the last of a three-part series of conversations with the team's coordinators, Packers.com sat down with third-year special teams coordinator Mike Stock during the bye week to take a look back at the first seven games and look ahead to the rest of the '08 season.*

How would you assess the performance by your coverage units so far this season?

The coverage units have played pretty well. We have had some inconsistencies and some breakdowns, but they have been few and far between and we've got to keep it that way. Impact plays, anything beyond the 35-yard line on kickoff coverage, we want to eliminate. Punt returns, keep them under 20. Anything beyond 20 is an impact return and so far we have been fortunate to get down and cover kicks when they are returnable. We've got to maintain that consistency.

We've got some young guys playing on the punt protection element, and we've got to make sure that we strive to make the protections as pure and solid as possible. The kickoff coverage has been pretty good. We've had a bunch of new guys in there because of injuries.

Coming into the season Jason Hunter, Korey Hall and Tracy White were a few of the leaders on special teams, but they have been hurt or not with the team anymore. Are you pleased with how your units have adjusted to their absences?

The guys who have filled in have done a pretty good job but it's an ongoing learning process for these guys. Some of these guys have never done this before. The kickoff return is probably the most difficult aspect of the game for some of these people, especially the guys on the front line, because they've got to retreat on the kick and then get themselves lined up to block the guy they are supposed to block so they are between the target and the ball carrier.

You have to be flexible and you have to continue to work hard in teaching fundamentals and technique, and that's been the basis of this whole thing. We strive for that and the importance of guys that have already been involved with it that they can utilize their skills to help the young guys come along.

We brought in a new guy in Kenny Pettway from Jacksonville, who is a very astute learner in special teams. We are really fortunate to have him. To have a guy like that who has been trained already and has the experience, he's been really a good help to us and a good acquisition, and I think he has been a good teacher to the young guys just by the way he plays.

You obviously don't like to see guys hurt, but how valuable has the experience been for the young players that have been pressed into duty because of that?

There is no question because you know injuries are going to occur. If a guy has not had any experience when he has to go in there, it makes for perhaps a very difficult afternoon or evening.

The experience that a guy like Pat Lee has got, even if he is inactive when (Al) Harris comes back, then at least he has had these weeks getting experience on the field with special teams. He knows what he has to do and the speed that he has to do it, because practice speed and game speed are totally different, as you know. That's been invaluable to him and us.

Will Blackmon had the punt return for a touchdown in the opener. Do you see teams adjusting to him?

They are trying to hang the ball or kick the ball to the sideline if they can, and some people have kicked some off-target balls and some poor kicks as a result of trying to minimize his ability to catch it. I think we have gained some things from that first ballgame against Minnesota.

He has had some success beyond that without scoring a touchdown, but certainly some chunks of yardage and good field position for the offense. I think the mere fact of how dangerous he is or could be helps us immensely. If we can continue now to keep working on breaking him free from time to time, it will help us even more.

We've got to do a better job, not so much at the line of scrimmage, but down the field so when he has a chance to catch it he can get his eyes up the field. He's not going to be pinned in at the exact moment of the catch and he can now get his eyes focused after he catches it to find where the spaces are.

You added Brett Goode right before the regular season because J.J. Jansen had the season-ending knee injury. How has he done?

I think this guy has really done a magnificent job. I am very much impressed with his ability to be so consistent under the pressure he has been in. I think he has done a wonderful job.

It's probably the most unsung job in football. Nobody ever talks about it except when something happens poorly at that position. I had a confidence level when I saw him snap the ball. First of all, he has good zip on the ball and he has a tight spiral, which is an easier ball to catch.

We hadn't seen him under pressure yet because he hadn't played. That was going to be the biggest question, how he was going to react when he got thumped, and he was fine. That was the only thing I had a question about. A lot of people were calling and they talk about, "My snapper can cover the punts and he is fast." I said, "I'm not interested in how fast he can cover a punt. I want to know if he can snap it back accurately enough every time so that guy doesn't have to be running all over to catch it and get the punt away."

{sportsad300}Another player that was added late was punter Derrick Frost. He got off to a good start but then went into what he called probably the worst slump of his career. Where do you think he is at?

Every day is a new day for everybody, for me, for him. He's got good gifts. He's got a good swing. Golfers get into a rut sometimes too, so in terms of him he just needed to settle down a little bit. Being cut has got to be a very tough thing to swallow. I can attest to being fired, so if it is anything like that then it is difficult.

For him to cope and then to have the feeling that I'm going to come here and do everything perfect, do everything the right way with hang time, distance, it's got to be hard. The big thing was for him to relax a little bit. Don't worry about the results; just take your techniques and make sure you are good and pure with that.

He has done that the last couple of weeks. He's had three good practice weeks and he's had two good games the last two weeks. If we continue to carry that through I think we'll be fine.

Mason Crosby has been kind of quiet this year, probably because he hasn't been on the field for a game-winning kick in the final seconds like he did in the season-opener last year. How would you assess his performance?

His leg is fine and his mind is fine. He's got 10 touchbacks, which is up in the Top 5 in the league. His field-goal percentage is up around 80 percent, and I think he is fine. It's a work in progress and everything is like that. Nothing is going to be perfect, and you just have to cope with the things that happen when maybe it goes bad or a kick is mis-hit.

The big thing I try to impress upon him is this: once that happens, forget it. It's over and you can't do anything about it. You must be ready for the next kick because you may have to win the next game with the next kick.

What do you work on during the bye week?

We're doing the work for Tennessee, breaking down their game against Kansas City, and they also play Indianapolis on Monday so we'll look at that as well. We'll do the self-scouting, but we do that weekly. We look at ourselves from the previous three or four games before each opponent so we know what they are looking at when they look at us.

You just don't want to be predictable. That's the most important thing. Make sure you've got something else to show them so that they can't just say, "When we're in this, they're going to be in that."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content