Packer Report talked to first-year special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum after Tuesday morning's practice. If you've been at practice, you'll recognize Slocum as the voice booming over the speakers as he seeks to upgrade a unit that was among the most penalized but least productive in the NFL last season.
The punting battle seems to have picked up in the last couple of days. Would you agree with that?
Slocum: I think they've improved their production in the things that we've charted and the competitive drills that we've done. I think they're starting to get into a groove a little bit. I've seen them become more positive.
Slocum: Well, I think we're going to determine that once we play through the preseason games.
Mason Crosby had a couple of rough days earlier in camp but had a great practice today. Were his struggles just a matter of you changing up the snappers and holders or was he doing something wrong fundamentally?
Slocum: There's two aspects to that. It takes three guys to operate with the snapper, the holder and the kicker. A couple of the kicks that he's missed have been technical error by him. A couple of things have been different tempo with a different snapper and the hold might not have been just where we wanted it. It's a process that we have to work through. I'm trying to make it difficult in practice so that when we get into the games, he's seen that situation. I thought today he had an excellent practice. He made a 58-yarder.
How do you make it difficult?
Slocum: Change the elements. You change the tempo in the rush. You go live with the rush a few times. You change the holder, you change the snapper, just because when we get into a game and get a guy that goes down, you have to continue to operate. So, we try to change the elements. But at the same time, we want to be conscious of creating continuity, and I think that's where we're at at this point. We've got to move forward with some continuity and make those kicks.
You break down special teams into individual matchups rather than just focus on the big picture. Is that your style or is that something you think this team needed after last year?
Slocum: Each guy has a job to do. Each guy has technique to play, and I think it's very important that those guys understand the technique, first of all, and then execute it in practice. If you do those things, it should show up in the game.
Have you always coached like that?
Slocum: I spent a lot of time in my career coaching defense. I've coached the secondary, I've coached linebackers, and it's very technique-oriented. It's just natural. I don't necessarily think that I add that on special teams. It's just the way that I coach. I think it's important to coach technique.
Are Crosby's adjustments like a golfer fixing a slice?
Slocum: I ready a book about (famed golf coach) Harvey Penick one time. He said if you're hitting it right, just aim a little left. So, sometimes it can be that simple. But really, we've looked at it from a technique standpoint. Mason's made some adjustments and I think today he really, really hit the ball well.
Are you confident you can turn the special teams around this year?
Slocum: Absolutely. I like the makeup of our roster, top to bottom. I like that the players are into it. They come to the meetings focused. That's been a point of emphasis since we began in the spring of clicking in on that play. You play offense and defense and then all of a sudden you're playing a special team. If you're not careful, you're thinking about the pass you just dropped or the route that you didn't run right or the coverage that broke down or whatever it is. They have to turn their attention onto that play, and they're doing that. I think we'll be successful.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.