Green Bay Packers

Where Does Anders Carlson Stand At This Point?

Photo Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

As we get closer to training camp, there are only a few true positional battles for the Green Bay Packers.

The offensive line battles will be a top story as the team finds its best five, and the defense will try to figure out their ideal rotation with their young safeties and linebackers. But the biggest battle might be at kicker, where second-year Anders Carlson must prove he can bounce back after a rough rookie season and claim the job.

Battling with the incumbent Carlson are Greg Joseph, the 29-yard-old veteran mostly recently with the Minnesota Vikings, and Jack Podlesny, the former 2022 SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.

While we expected competition to elevate Carlson’s game, Joseph is a legitimate starting kicker who has made 100 out of 121 field goal attempts (82.6%). He has cold-weather kicking experience from his time in Cleveland and in late-season games in Green Bay and Chicago from his time in Minnesota.

The Packers likely want Carlson to win the job — they drafted him, after all. Still, the coaching staff needs to find the best kicker or risk losing games like last season. Where does Carlson stand at this point in the offseason, and is he at a serious risk of losing the starting job?

While Green Bay’s offense started rough before getting hot late in the season, their kicker had the opposite problem. After a boom-or-bust offseason, Carlson showed the lights weren’t too bright for him by making every single kick he attempted in the first five weeks.

But then the misses started, and Carlson missed a league-high 13 kicks over the season. He missed five extra points, also a league-high. While he was perfect with field goals from 39 yards or fewer, he only made 50% of kicks from 40-plus yards. That’s not ideal for a kicker whose primary strength was his big, powerful leg.

Carlson’s rookie season ended on a sour note in San Francisco. He missed a 41-yard attempt very wide, which became the difference in a three-point loss in the Divisional Round.

Bisaccia was impressed by how Carlson bounced back from that San Francisco 49ers game. He said Carlson put in the work and showed up stronger this off-season than last season.

The Packers knew Carlson would need some patience thanks to his low accuracy numbers in college and banked on their young kicker’s upside. Bisaccia, Matt LaFleur, and Brian Gutekunst publicly supported Carlson through his struggles. But it was clear that Green Bay needed to create some serious competition, hence the signing of Joseph this offseason.

There isn’t an easy answer for bringing in a young kicker, especially after being spoiled with a reliable veteran like Mason Crosby for so long. It seemed inevitable the Packers would draft a kicker in 2023, a polarizing concept in general.

Rookie kickers aren’t usually good, and kickers are in a unique position where they can single-footedly win or lose games. There might be a kicking operation involved. However, in the public eye, kickers are on an island and can be the difference-maker in late-game situations.

A team can only be so patient with a struggling kicker if he can’t pull out these close wins. Some of these drafted kickers eventually go on to have success, just not with the team that selected them — like Daniel Carlson. Anders’ older brother struggled as a rookie in Minnesota before becoming one of the league’s better kickers under Bisaccia in Las Vegas.

The Packers hope to avoid that scenario by having Carlson the younger work with Bisaccia to improve more quickly. The team believes that Bisaccia can help Anders shine like Daniel.

Live reps are important, and Green Bay’s coaching staff believes that resiliency is one of Carlson’s best traits. There probably isn’t a better way for Carlson to improve than to be the starting kicker.

However, the Packers are in a win-now moment with a playoff-worthy roster looking to build on their late-season success. If they can trust Carlson to win those inevitable coin-flip games, Green Bay can’t afford to play favorites and needs to spring for the most reliable kicker.

Earlier this month, Bisaccia commented that all three kickers on the roster know they’re in a competition and that that group is fluid.

When asked who would be taken into training camp, Bisaccia said, “It might be those three. Might be three other ones. It might be six.”

Certainly, other options will emerge the closer we get to training camp. The UFL has kickers making 60-plus-yard game-winners almost weekly, and those guys should get serious looks when the spring league’s season ends. The UFL could be a reliable place to find kickers, offering kickers valuable game experience before joining an NFL team.

Regardless, it’s hard to imagine Anders Carlson as anything besides the favorite to earn the job. The team loves him and his ceiling, and he’s shown an impressive leg and the ability to bounce back. However, Joseph’s presence and Bisaccia’s comments about potentially bringing in other kickers point to the team being serious about the competition and choosing the best option for the team. Coupled with Calrson having to share the No. 17 with new QB3 Michael Pratt, the young kicker may face a serious uphill battle for the role.

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