Bomb Dropped on Special Teams

Mike McCarthy said the plan wasn't to blow up the special teams. A look at the offseason transactions says otherwise. Eight key members have been shown the door after a league-worst ranking in 2014.

In sports, there’s a saying that it’s easier to fire the coach than the players.

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.

Jarrett Bush, Brad Jones and Brandon Bostick, who ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, in special-teams snaps, are no longer on the roster.

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.

PlayerSnapsGamesPer Game
Richardson3211620.1
Bush3181521.2
B. Jones2521122.9
Bostick2101316.2
Elliott2091316.1
Hyde1921612.0
House1781313.7
Boyd1631510.9
Boykin1601312.3
Lattimore 1351112.0
Of that 10-player group, Bush, Jones, Bostick, Davon House, Jarrett Boykin and Jamari Lattimore will not be back. Jones and Bostick were released, and no effort was made to retain Bush, Boykin, Lattimore and Harris.

“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.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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