Green Bay Packers

One UDFA Could Elevate Green Bay's Special Teams From An Overlooked Position

Photo Credit: Tork Mason via USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have an intriguing streak of keeping at least one UDFA on the initial 53-man roster since 2006. Part of the fun of training camp and the preseason is learning about these lesser-known players, seeing what they can do, and hoping they can crack the roster.

Last year, three UDFAs made the initial roster — WR Malik Heath, EDGE Brenton Cox Jr., and RB Emanuel Wilson. Heath and Wilson saw some playing time as the season went on and stand a good chance of making the roster again in 2024.

The Packers have a few UDFAs in the mix right now, and one stands a good chance of keeping the streak alive and becoming a starter.

Former Wisconsin long-snapper Peter Bowden.

Bowden can potentially be the first UDFA long snapper for the Packers since … well, okay, since 2022, when Jack Coco earned the job. There hasn’t been a long snapper drafted since 2021, so seeing that as a leading spot for a UDFA to make an impact is not surprising. Long snappers don’t get much, if any, discussion unless they screw up. But if there is any team that should understand how detrimental a poor special teams operation is, it’s the Packers, and they need to fix their kicking operation. Bowden is an exciting prospect who can succeed where previous snappers have failed and earn a long-term role in Green Bay.

Jack Coco was a former tight end and only lasted one year in Green Bay. While he won the job as a UDFA over incumbent Steven Wirtel, the Packers chose to go for a more experienced snapper in 2023. The team signed veteran Matt Orzech, who won Super Bowl LVI with the Los Angeles Rams. Some people thought Orzech’s experience would be a boon for rookie kicker Anders Carlson and rookie punter Daniel Whelan.

Unfortunately, the veteran didn’t live up to expectations.

It’s often hard to quantify long snapping in the moment. Most people aren’t degenerate enough in their football fandom to go that deep. Anecdotally, it felt like Whelan often had to cover for Orzech’s poor snaps. Whelan’s holding ability is one of his biggest strengths. While he didn’t have any truly game-altering snaps, it’s fair to say his sloppy snaps didn’t help the already shaky kicking operation.

For what they’re worth, PFF’s rankings had Orzech as their 31st-ranked long snapper. Only four qualifying long snappers had a lower ranking, including Washington’s Camaron Cheeseman, the last drafted LS in the league.

The Packers have struggled to find their ideal long snapper since Brett Goode. While Orzech is still on the roster, the Packers need a change. Enter Bowden.

Bowden was one of college football’s top long snappers. He was a finalist for the Patrick Mannelly Award in 2023 and a semi-finalist in 2022. Bowden participated in the Senior Bowl, which Brian Gutekunst loves, and he was the only long snapper Dane Brugler gave a draftable grade.

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein praised Bowden’s placement and experience but said his size is worrisome and lacks velocity.

As is common, no team drafted a long-snapper, but it didn’t take long for the former Badger to find an opportunity in-state.

Yahoo Sports’ Charles McDonald looked at what scouting long-snappers consists of and why Bowden could succeed where other recent long-snapper prospects have failed.

McDonald cited Senior Bowl special teams assistant Brendan Cahill, who said the biggest difference between success in the NFL and college football is blocking ability.

“It’s hard enough for coaches to find a kid who can snap the ball back 15 yards,” he said. “It’s really hard to get a kid who can do that and then kick back and pick up blocks and identify coverages and all that stuff.”

The physical demands of long snapping in the NFL are more difficult, thanks to the limited time to set blocks. A long snapper needs the right size, willingness, and skill as a blocker to succeed.

Eric Galko, the East-West Shrine Game’s director of football operations, mentioned three long snappers he thought had a shot to last in the NFL thanks to having the correct skill set: Joe Shimko (North Carolina State), Marco Ortiz (Nebraska), and Bowden.

That’s good news for Green Bay, who would love to find a young, ascending player to pair with their similarly young specialists. Bowden is a true long snapper, not a player of another position who picked up that skill to add to a resumé. While he has some elements of his game to work on, having glowing recommendations from Senior Bowl and Shrine game staff bodes well.

Carlson must also improve; the kicking operation mostly relies on the kicker. But more stability in the whole operation will make his life easier. Long snapper isn’t a flashy position, but that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. An excellent long snapper makes life on special teams much easier, and Green Bay needs to improve on special teams. Bowden’s growth this summer should make for a fascinating story, and he’s the strongest option to keep the franchise’s UDFA streak alive.

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Photo Credit: Tork Mason via USA TODAY Sports

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