The Green Bay Packers special teams squad is one of the best in the entire NFL…until the kicking situation is factored into the final equation.
Currently, the Packers seem to be squared away with 4th-year punter Tim Masthay, and returners Randall Cobb and Jeremy Ross. The kicking situation is the most alarming and one of the greatest questions marks in 2013 Packers training camp.
Veteran Mason Crosby and youngster Giorgio Tavecchio are competing for the Packers kicking job, and Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he wants to see improvement in both kickers. “I’d love to see the kickers hit the ball better”, McCarthy said earlier this week. “We are kicking everyday, and we can’t do enough of it”.
McCarthy said he has alternated kickers, and he will continue to do so throughout the preseason. McCarthy said his goal is to keep the kicking competition “as balanced as possible” between the vet and the young pup.
Kickers: Crosby, Tavecchio
Crosby, the Packers 6th-round draft pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, had has his moments, both good and bad, in Green Bay. In his six-year NFL career, all with the Packers, Crosby has made 76.8% of his field goal attempts.
As a rookie, Crosby beat out Dave Rayner for the Packers kicking job in 2007, making 31 of 39 field goals. In 2011, Crosby made a career-best 85.7% of his field goal attempts, as the Packers finished the season with a 15-1 record (best regular season record in franchise history). From the tail-end of the 2010 season until the tail-end of the 2011, Crosby was arguably the NFL’s best kicker, as he made 23 consecutive field goals.
After having a fantastic 2011 season, Crosby would probably like to forget about 2012. Last season, Crosby made 21 of 33 field goals (63.6%), the worst kicking percentage in the NFL. Crosby didn’t only miss, but missed bad and often. Despite setting an NFL record for most career points scored (762) in his first six NFL seasons, Crosby’s job is on the line in Green Bay.
“I’ve hit the ball well, but all I can worry about is kicking the ball through the uprights”, Crosby said after the team’s family night scrimmage in early August. “I need to focus on what I need to do, and I have to go out there and make kicks”.
McCarthy said Crosby, who is 4th all-time in scoring in Packers franchise history, has to be more fundamentally sound.
“He is competing for a job on our football team like everyone else”, McCarthy said after the team’s scrimmage. “He definitely didn’t take a step in the right direction (on family night). That is not going to cut it”.
Crosby’s advantage over Tavecchio though is his powerful leg. Crosby owns the record for the three longest field goals made in Packers franchise history (58, 56, 56).
“I’m hitting the ball really well right now”, Crosby said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’m focused in and making sure I take care of my business, and that is all I can control”.
One teammate said he feels Crosby will be the Packers kicker for a 7th consecutive season in 2013. “I expect him to be our kicker”, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He has made some big kicks, and he has one of the biggest legs in the league. I’m counting on him, like the rest of us”.
Signed by the Packers in March, Tavecchio, who is in his second-year out of college, has yet to kick in an NFL regular season game. At the University of California, Tavecchio made 75% of his field goals, including 20 of 23 as a senior in 2011. On family night in early August, Tavecchio unofficially made 5 of 6 field goal attempts.
“I feel good”, Tavecchio, a left-footed kicker, said. “It is a blessing to be out there, and it is almost liberating to feel I don’t have to be perfect, focused, and not overanxious. You take the good, the bad, and the ugly and move forward”.
Tavecchio said Crosby, his training camp competitor, has been nothing but a great teammate to him. “I really respect him as a man”, Tavecchio said. “He has been friendly, he maintains his personality, and that has erased any of my worries”.
Tavecchio kicked in the 2012 preseason for the San Francisco 49ers a year ago, but lost the kicking job to veteran David Akers. Tavecchio said he will try seizing the moment, and soaking everything in while it lasts.
“One at a time, control what I can”, Tavecchio said about his kicking approach. “It is a wonderful experience, and I feel I’ve done a solid job”.
Favorite to Win Job: Crosby
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