Coming off a dreadful season in which he made just 21 of 33 field-goal attempts, Crosby withstood a pair of challengers last summer and responded with easily the best season of his career. His 33-of-37 accuracy on field goals was good for 89.2 percent. In the first six seasons of his career, Crosby made 85.7 percent in 2011 but never better than 79.5 percent in the other five seasons.
Crosby was a perfect 23-of-23 from inside of 42 yards and an impressive 5-of-7 from 50-plus. In the best kicking season in NFL history, Crosby's overall success rate was good for 13th in the league. Crosby had the second-lowest touchback percentage in the league, though that was more by strategy than anything as special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum opted for hang time and directional kicking to prevent long returns. Reducing the amount of "explosive gains" on returns is "something we've really got to improve," Slocum said.
Masthay is one of the most underrated punters in the league. His gross average of 44.6 yards ranked just 21st in the league, as did his net average of 39.0. The net, however, established a franchise record. In fact, Masthay owns the top four spots on that ledger. Here‘s the key number, though: Masthay ranked third in the league with opponents returning just 31.3 percent of his punts, according to ProFootballFocus.com. He‘s an outstanding situational punter, with 22 inside-the-20s vs. five touchbacks.
"I want to maintain where our kickers are right now," Slocum said. "If we can go into the season and maintain week to week the way they're striking the ball right now, they're both explosive, they're fresh. In fact, I told them that today (June 17), we've got to maintain this and not outkick ourselves and be fresh and explosive week to week."
Along with the specialists, Green Bay's top five tacklers are back: Davon House (12), Chris Banjo (10), Micah Hyde (eight), Brandon Bostick (seven) and Jarrett Bush (seven). Jamari Lattimore, Andy Mulumba and Ryan Taylor were among five players tied for sixth with five tackles. Sean Richardson, who had four tackles while playing in only six games, is back, as well.
Who returns kicks? Randall Cobb is by far the best returner on the team but with the receiver corps so thin on proven targets, he simply can't be an option.
Micah Hyde provided a major lift on punt returns, finishing fifth with a 12.3-yard average plus a touchdown at Minnesota. He also averaged a respectable 24.1 yards on kickoff returns, showing a better feel for that phase of the game as the season progressed. However, Hyde might be starting at safety, so the Packers might be hesitant to use him in that role.
Based on offseason practices and a little roster projection, the best options appear to be reserve running back DuJuan Harris on kickoffs and rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis on punts. It's worth nothing that Abbrederis did both jobs at Wisconsin. Fellow rookie receiver Jeff Janis is big and fast so certainly could challenge on kickoffs. Rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson returned kickoffs at Baylor and Slocum said undrafted rookie corner Ryan White has shown good hands.
Crosby, Masthay and Goode as the specialists.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.