The Green Bay Packers gave up roughly 9,000 rushing yards to the Philadelphia Eagles, and their offense is still an inconsistent mess. Meanwhile, special teams might actually be trending upwards! It’s a faint uptick, but it’s difficult to be any worse than they were last year.
Despite an early muffed punt, Keisean Nixon has been a revolution as a returner and may have found himself a long-term job there. He may run with the ball like a balloon with the air flowing out, but the man gets results. With the Amari Rodgers Experience over, you may think special teams has nowhere to go but up. But there’s still one major problem, and it’s an unpleasant realization.
The Packers need a new kicker.
While Mason Crosby has had his share of heroic moments in this dismal season, it’s clear his leg isn’t as strong as it used to be. Just a year removed from being one of the league’s worst kickers, Crosby is, unfortunately, trending downwards. With his current contract expiring at the end of this season, it’s time to start looking for Green Bay’s next kicker.
Crosby has had his share of great moments this season. Once again, he got to be the hero against the Dallas Cowboys with a game-winning field goal in overtime and had a similar moment of glory against the New England Patriots.
But the Silver Fox has struggled in many areas this season.
Crosby has made 13 out of 16 field goal attempts for a completion percentage of 81.3%, a big upgrade over his 73.5% from last season. Yet that 81.3% is only 22nd across the league. More troublesome is that Crosby has yet to make anything from over 50 yards. Two of his misses were 50-plus attempts, and his third was from over 40.
His longest successful field goal attempt of the year came in London against the New York Giants, a 48-yarder. This ties him for 30th in the league for longest-made.
Crosby’s leg strength has faltered across the board, and his touchback percentage is no exception. On 44 attempts, Crosby has had just 11 touchbacks, a 25% rate and his lowest since 2013. That’s a significant drop from last season, where he had a 45.7% rate.
And despite longer kicks seemingly becoming Crosby’s bane this season, his 92.3% extra point success rate is 24th in the league and is a career low. The chip shots aren’t as reliable as they once were.
Crosby is usually good at bouncing back after an off-year, which undoubtedly led to new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia sticking with the veteran. It wouldn’t have been unheard of for a new coordinator to want to bring in his own guy. Crosby dealt with a back injury this offseason that threatened to end his consecutive streak of kicking for the Packers. Crosby recovered and returned to the starting spot, but Father Time may be catching up with the 38-year-old.
Despite being one of Aaron Rodgers’ favorite teammates, Crosby, the Packers’ all-time leading scorer, may see his time in Green and Gold coming to an end. Crosby was a suspected cap casualty heading into this season thanks to being one of the league’s highest-paid kickers. With his current deal set to end following this season, it’s time to look to the future.
The Packers already experimented with another kicker in-season. With Crosby dealing with a sore back, Green Bay called up former Pittsburgh Mauler Ramiz Ahmed from the practice squad to handle kickoff duties. Ahmed kicked off six times, with three going for touchbacks. Ahmed had a USFL-high 61-yarder with Pittsburgh and could be an intriguing option long-term.
The Packers have kept a steady line of kickers around anyway, keeping J.J. Molson and protecting him on the practice squad through 2021. They’ve tested him, Dominik Eberle, and the intriguing Gabe Brkic this offseason. They’ve taken close looks at other options and often bring in kickers for workouts during the season.
What Green Bay wants in a kicker isn’t always easy to find. In addition to a strong leg with high accuracy, the Packers need someone who can kick in Wisconsin’s tumultuous late-season elements.
Would Brian Gutekunst be willing to draft a kicker on early Day 3, as the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns did with Evan McPherson and Cade York? Gutekunst has drafted specialists before, though neither J.K. Scott nor Hunter Bradley worked out in the long run.
No matter how they do it, it’s clear the time to replace Crosby is soon. A successful special teams unit needs a good kick returner, punt returner, punter, and kicker at minimum. Right now, Crosby is the weak link there for Green Bay. The Packers are trying to reinvent their special teams unit and need to consider every possible option. Crosby has done a lot for this team and will go down in history as a Packer legend, but legends can’t stick around forever. It’s time for Green Bay to find its new kicker.