Do the Packers Really Have a Kicker Competition?

Just like the rest of the Green Bay Packers special teams unit in 2021, Mason Crosby had his fair share of struggles. Not even the reliable veteran was immune to those issues.

Crosby would end the season making only 73.5% of his 34 field goal attempts, which was his worst performance since his abysmal 2012 season when he went 21 for 33. In particular, he struggled on kicks from over 40 yards, making only seven of his 12 attempts.

However, while at the end of the day, Crosby is the one booting the ball, it’s not as if 100% of the blame falls on his shoulders either. There were bad snaps by Steven Wirtel, poor holds by Corey Bojorquez, and a field goal blocking team that broke down on several occasions.

Joining Crosby in camp this summer will be Dominik Eberle, who was signed earlier this offseason and spent a season on the Las Vegas practice squad under Rich Bisaccia. Eberle appeared in one game in 2021 with Houston, making two of his three field goal attempts and all five extra point attempts.

If you asked Matt LaFleur if Crosby was competing for his job this summer, I’m sure he’d tell you that every player has to earn their spot on the roster and the playing time that comes with it–or something along those lines . But is Crosby’s job truly in jeopardy?

I don’t really believe so.

For one, it’s not at all unusual for Green Bay to have two kickers in training camp. In fact, it’s normal and gives Crosby a break over the course of the summer, so he doesn’t have to be the one responsible for every field goal or kick-off attempt.

Also, despite the missed field goals last season, LaFleur and the rest of the decision-makers on this Green Bay Packers team know that all of those other problems mentioned above played a role in Crosby’s performance.

But most importantly, this is a Green Bay Packers team with Super Bowl aspirations–are they willing to rely on Eberle and his two career field goal attempts to make a game-winner at Lambeau Field late in the season? Perhaps he is ready for that moment; I’m not going to pretend that I know for certain, but there are also a lot of risks involved in having him be the guy.

While, sure, the Packers can save $3.4 million in cap space by cutting Crosby after June 1st, for the reasons mentioned, I don’t see Green Bay believing it is worth it. At the end of the day, the Packers are trying to turn around what was an abysmal special teams unit, and cutting Crosby feels like a step in the wrong direction. Freed-up cap space doesn’t make field goals.

Now, with all of that said, if the Packers want to explore using punter Pat O’Donnell on kick-offs over Crosby, where he does have 13 career attempts, I’m, all for it.

The soon-to-be 38-year-old Crosby doesn’t have the leg strength that he once had–and it’s particularly noticeable on kick-offs.

Like the rest of the Packers’ special teams unit, the kick coverage unit had its issues last season, allowing 25.9 yards per return, according to PFF, the second most in the NFL.

Although that specifically isn’t necessarily Crosby’s fault — it’s not as if, as a kicker, he’s an active member of the coverage unit — but his inability to consistently get the ball through the end zone led to Green Bay’s poor coverage team having to defend fairly often.

Per PFF, the Packers’ opponents returned 55% of Crosby’s kick-offs, which was the fourth highest rate in football. Meanwhile, Crosby’s 43 touchbacks were also the seventh-fewest.

Ultimately, we will have to wait and see if the Green Bay Packers explore this option on kick-offs because I believe it is a worthwhile discussion. However, when it comes to who will be kicking field goals this season, I don’t see that as much of a debate. While there may be an additional kicker on the roster at the moment, I don’t see this as a true competition–this job belongs to Crosby for another year.

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