Sydney Speaks! Breaking down special teams

We've discussed the Green Bay Packers' offense and defense in recent weeks. Now we must tackle the special teams.

For the Packers to get where they want to go, and that's the Super Bowl, things have to drastically improve with special teams. It has to be as inportant as offense and defense. There is nothing that changes the momentum like a great play on special teams. Think about what a punt return for a touchdown or a kickoff return that is taken to the "house" means to a team.

Please understand that playing special teams in the NFL is something new to almost every player because most of them haven't done it. They were the stars at their college, so many never had to play special teams after their freshman year.

As Packers fans we haven't experienced a touchdown from special teams since 2001. To accomplish that we must look at the players on the teams first then we will tackle coaching later.

Kickoff coverage team
A good coverage unit is really all about heart. The Packers are led by William Henderson because of his leadership and willingness to win. But here's the problem - you have a 10-year vet making the plays that the young hungry players should be making. Someone has to step up and become the leader of this unit. We keep hearing about speed, but they need to use that speed to make plays.

Too many times last year Green Bay's opponents got good field position, which put a weak defense in the hole. The Packers kickoff coverage team needs all the help it can get. In the past this team used to be made up of a lot of free agents that would run through a wall because their ability, and to make the team. It takes a certain type of player to do this, someone with an attitude. Former linebacker Torrance Marshall was very good at this as well as wide receiver Robert Ferguson. We will get into coaching later in the column, but I do believe John Bonamego has done an excellent job being creative on this team. This unit is pretty good, and should be better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Punt coverage team
A lot of this will depend on the leg and the growth of the punter B.J. Sander, the guy they moved up to get in the 2004 NFL draft because they thought someone else might select him. The Packers sent Sander to NFL Europe this spring to gain experience and find confidence which hopefully he has found. Everything about the punt team is dependent on the punter's ability to get good hang time and boot it in the right direction, according to the punt team's coverage. Hang time is huge, allowing the gunners to get downfield to pin the returner to one side of the field if it is angled to the sideline, therefore cutting the field in half and trapping the returner.

Rob Davis, the long snapper, is one of the best in the league, so the Packers nearly never have to worry about a bad snap. He's a good tackler to boot. I would expect new, young meat running down the field trying to make plays, so this team will only get better. Again a good unit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

Kickoff return
This is one of the units that hasn't gotten the production necessary to put the Packers in the Super Bowl. Yes, every now and then they will get a nice return, but they need to be more consistent and I don't think that falls on the returners Najeh Davenport and Ferguson. When healthy, they have done a very nice job but they need help. And that starts with scheme. John Bonamego should take some of that imagination that he displays on the kickoff team and use it here. Instead of using wedge blocking, I think he should use some cross blocking so that the opponent's coverage team has to keep their heads on a swivel. This will slow them down and create better blocking angles. I know it sounds technical, but it's not and I know it would help the kickoff return team which, in turn, would help the offense. Hence, this takes pressure off the defense. Needs improvement!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Punt return
Does the word JOKE mean anything to you? This is a combination of needing a better return man and a better scheme. Antonio Chatman has his strengths. He catches everything and, yes, he is very safe. But what have they gotten out of him since he's been here the last two seasons? This isn't the Arena League anymore. They need a game changer, a difference-maker, a threat back there. The Packers have gotten nothing out of this unit. The Packers need to create better running lanes for whomever is returning by setting walls with someone in charge of getting the crucial block to spring the returner. Didn't they draft a lot of speed and hitters? This unit needs to be involved more with helping the Packers win.

Field goal team
Ryan Longwell is simply the best FIELD GOAL kicker in the game, and he's worked on longer kickoffs. THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Field goal block team
The only time kicks are usually blocked are because of mental breakdowns by the kicking team, or on long field goals when the ball is kicked low. Nothing else to say!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next week I will discuss coaching philosophy on both sides of the ball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Editor's note: Harry Sydney's column appears each Tuesday on The former Packer fullback and assistant coach answers questions from fans each Friday on If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to Packer Report managing editor Todd Korth at

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