The Green Bay Packers, however, have managed to do both in an attempt to fix their broken and battered special teams.
The carnage started with the firing of special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum at the end of the season. Coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson didn’t stop there.
Despite signs to the contrary, McCarthy said the plan wasn’t to simply “blow up” what ranked as the worst unit in the NFL, according to the annual Dallas Morning News rankings.
“I think our process over the last 10 years is very similar to what it has been,” he said during last week’s rookie orientation camp. “Change is constant. I think our 53-man roster will be pretty much just like the average (age) of the other nine years. Just looking to statistics, getting ready for the meeting last night and today, and just (to emphasize) to these young men the opportunity that a rookie has. I see this year shaking out similar to the ones in the past.”
Maybe, but Thompson and McCarthy have acted like a bulldozer in cleaning up the wreckage after the Packers ranked at or near the bottom in every key category other than punt return. Six of the top 10 players in terms of special-teams snaps have been shown the door (see chart). That number doesn’t include running back DuJuan Harris, who returned kickoffs, and tight end Ryan Taylor, who was released after five games despite playing at least a dozen special-teams snaps in four games.
“Well, maybe it’s titled more to that area,” McCarthy said in a follow-up to the earlier question. “But I think our change is similar to past years. Sometimes you lose more veterans than you did the year before. But I don’t think this is higher than the norm.”
In Bush, Jones, Bostick, House, Boykin and Lattimore, that’s about 1,250 snaps to replace. That means the Packers will be counting heavily on safety Sean Richardson and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott. Inside linebackers Jake Ryan and Carl Bradford must be factors, too. Moreover, at the Scouting Combine, McCarthy said he’d count on starters to carry more of the load.
“I think we need to adjust our special-teams philosophy,” McCarthy said back in February. “I know what it was here the last 20 years, but we had starters play more on special teams this year than we had in the past, and that will continue to increase. Special teams needs to be an asset, not something that we use as a stepping stone on offense or defense. Frankly that, probably wasn’t fair to Shawn in some ways. This year, we made those changes, having more starters play. But Elliott’s definitely a guy that I thought had a heck of a year on special teams, loves it, and we’ve got to get that energy and that vibe throughout all special teams regardless if they’re rookies or veterans.”
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