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Packers' special teams rise in rankings in Shawn Mennenga's first season

Tom Silverstein
Packers News

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers experienced improvement in some important areas on special teams under first-year coordinator Shawn Mennenga, but they moved up only six spots from their last-place 2018 finish in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings.

The biggest improvement in Mennenga’s 26th-rated special teams came in a considerable drop in penalties committed.

After ranking tied for 30th in fewest penalties accepted (26) under Ron Zook in 2018, the Packers cut that total in half and finished tied for fourth in fewest penalties (13) and third in fewest penalty yards (95).

Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, right, speaks with special team coordinator Shawn Mennenga before their game against the Minnesota Vikings Monday, December 23, 2019 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.

Improvement elsewhere was minor and the only other of the 22 categories in which the Packers qualified in the top five was field goal percentage (third), thanks to an outstanding year by veteran kicker Mason Crosby (22 of 24), who made 17 straight field goals.

The Packers finished 32nd in one category: punt return average (4.5 yards).

Mennenga, who was special teams coach at Vanderbilt in ‘18 and an assistant under Chris Tabor in Cleveland before that, was not Packers head coach Matt LaFleur’s first choice for the job. That honor belonged to former Miami Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi, who interviewed with LaFleur in Green Bay and was interested in the job.

However, the Packers did not meet Rizzi’s salary demands immediately and he dropped out of the running.

Rizzi landed in New Orleans – at $1.5 million per year, he is one of the highest-paid special teams coaches in the NFL – where his units finished first in the Gosselin rankings. The Saints ranked in the top five in several categories, including blocked kicks (four) and opponent net punting (36.8 yards).

The Packers ranked 32nd, 16th, 29th and 17th during Zook’s four seasons. The highest they’ve finished since 2006 is tied for seventh in ‘07 under coordinator Mike Stock.

Practice squad players re-signed

General manager Brian Gutekunst signed his entire practice squad to reserve/future contracts, the club announced.

The 10 players who signed were: TE Evan Baylis, T Cody Conway, RB Damarea Crockett, CB Kabion Ento, TE James Looney, LB Randy Ramsey, WR Darrius Shepherd, WR Malik Taylor, QB Manny Wilkins and LB Tim Williams.

The players will be added to the 90-man off-season roster once the new football year begins in March. The NFL allows teams to sign players who are free agents after Week 17 of the season or practice squad players whose teams' seasons have ended.