Notebook: Promise On Special Teams

After poor performances across the board in the first two preseason games, there were good signs against the Colts. Plus, some other quick-hitting items ahead of the last week of training camp.

The Green Bay Packers' special teams took a step forward during Thursday's preseason game.

Against Cleveland and Seattle, the Packers lost the net punting and kickoff return averages. Against Indianapolis, however, the Packers won both categories. Plus, a special teams that didn't score a single touchdown all of last season scored two against the Colts.

Here is how things look through three games:

Kicker: Mason Crosby not only is 4-of-4 on field goals but his average kickoff has traveled inside the 2-yard line.

Punter: Tim Masthay appears to be in the driver's seat entering the final preseason game. Masthay's only punt against the Colts was a towering 53-yarder — which was fumbled and recovered for a touchdown, though Masthay deserves no credit for the returner's blunder — while Chris Bryan's two punts were low and averaged 41.5 yards. Masthay's net average of 40.6 yards per punt ranks ninth among punters with at least one attempt per game and only two of his five punts have been returned. Bryan ranks 12th with a net of 40.0, and three of his six punts have been returned.

"Nah, it's not hard to figure it out," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said when asked if the punters' limited work due to a productive offense would make the decision more difficult. "It's about the full body of work. These games are very important in terms of performance, but we've got a lot to work with in terms of determining who our punter's going to be."

Returns: The highlight was Jason Chery's 75-yard return for a touchdown but what was important was Will Blackmon had punt returns of 16 and 10 yards — and one muff for a 1-yard return. Blackmon had three returns for touchdowns in 2007 and 2008, so his full-speed return is crucial. For all the buzz Brandon Jackson created on Family Night, he wasn't in the kickoff return rotation against Indy. It looks like they'll go with Jordy Nelson, who never looks like he's going anywhere but managed to rank 11th in the NFL with a 25.4-yard average last year. He had returns of 31 and 22 yards against the Colts.

Coverage: The No. 1 kickoff unit was gouged for a 34-yard return on the opening kickoff against Indy but bounced back to allow returns of 16 and 21 yards on its final opportunities. The way Crosby is kicking it, solid coverage will mean long field for the opposing offense.

"The first kickoff we gave them too many yards. After that, it was outstanding until the last one," Slocum said. "How many, we had nine or 10 kickoffs, so it was pretty good. They've been a productive return team in the preseason in terms of creating problems for people. So, I thought we did a decent job."

Another reason for optimism

The Packers were penalized just two times (for 25 yards) against Indianapolis compared to 12 (for 116 yards) by the Colts. One was for unnecessary roughness by Nick Barnett and the other for holding on a punt return by undrafted Anthony Levine.

The Packers' 16 penalties are the fourth-fewest in the league among teams that have played three preseason games.

Your last chances

Training camp ends this week, meaning fans have just three more chances to watch practice this year. Practices on Sunday and Monday starts at 10:45 a.m. and will be in full pads. Practice on Tuesday will start at 10:15 a.m. and be in helmets.

Roster move

The Packers released wide receiver Shawn Gore, who had an 18-yard reception against the Colts. Gore was the 10th overall pick of the CFL draft by British Columbia.

They must trim the roster from 79 players to 75 by 3 p.m. (Central) on Tuesday. The cut to 53 is Sept. 4.

In case you missed it ...

Fox Sports is providing videos on our home page again. The latest is "Countdown to Kickfoff," and there are features on Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews, Nick Barnett and Aaron Rodgers.


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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 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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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