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Special teams finish 12th in Dallas Morning News' rankings

Jan. 30, 2013
 

Packers special teams rankings

2006: 32nd
2007: 7th (tied)
2008: 26th
2009: 31st
2010: 29th
2011: 13th (tied)
2012: 12th

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For the past four years under Shawn Slocum, the Green Bay Packers’ special-team units have improved in the Dallas Morning News’ annual rankings.

Despite finishing last in field-goal percentage, that trend continued this season with the Packers finishing 12th in the NFL in the rankings, which are tallied by Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin (http://tinyurl.com/a62wa69).

The Morning News’ rankings are determined by ranking teams in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing — one for best, 32 for worst. The Vikings finished first in special teams with a composite score of 253.5 — 22.5 points better than the runner-up Cincinnati Bengals.

During Slocum’s first season in 2009, the Packers ranked 31st with 460.5 points before climbing to 29th the following season, and moving into the top half of the league the past two seasons, including a jump to 13th a year ago (342.5 points).

While kicker Mason Crosby struggled for most of the season en route to finishing with a league-low 63.6-percent field goal accuracy, it was apparent the strides the unit made this season with Packers coach Mike McCarthy frequently speaking on its consistency.

“Special teams has been our most consistent unit from the start of the season to the end of the season,” said McCarthy last month. “Really the only negative performance we had as a whole special teams unit was our second game down in Chicago. I’ve been very pleased with the consistency of our coverage teams ... I thought the blocking has really improved over past years and we have a dynamic returner in Randall Cobb.”

Thanks to the efforts of Cobb and late-season add Jeremy Ross this year, the Packers’ kickoff return team has averaged more than 24.0-yards in each of the last two seasons, marking the first time that’s been accomplished in back-to-back seasons since 1963-’64.

On punt returns, the Packers outperformed their opponents’ units by 3.5 yards per return this season with Cobb and first-year wide receiver Jeremy Ross buoying an 11.0-yard average, the team’s highest since Desmond Howard’s 15.1-yard mark during the 1996 Super Bowl season.

Among other stats, the Packers ranked 11th in kickoff average, 16th in touchbacks, 10th in kickoff return average, 18th in opponent kickoff return average, eighth in punt return average, 26th in gross punt return average, 22nd in net punt return average and tied for seventh in punts inside the 20-yard line.

It's the second-highest finish for the Packers since McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006. The special-teams unit finished tied for seventh in 2007.

In the NFC North, Minnesota jumped from 29th a year ago to first in the rankings under second year coordinator Mike Priefer, which Gosselin remarked was the greatest one-season improvement in the rankings’ 33-year history.

The Bears finished ninth in the rankings (320 points) while Detroit finished 30th with 441.5 points. After the season, the team hired former Packers special-teams coach, John Bonamego, to replace Danny Crossman, who left for the same job with the Buffalo Bills.

Packers Special Teams Under Mike McCarthy - 2006: 32. 2007: 7 (tied). 2008: 26th. 2009: 31st. 2010: 29th. 2011: 13 (tied). 2012: 12.

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