Keisean Nixon, Rich Bisaccia spur Packers' 10-place jump in Gosselin's special teams rankings for the 2022 season

Pete Dougherty
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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GREEN BAY − The Green Bay Packers made a 10-place jump in Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings in their first season with Rich Bisaccia coordinating their groups.

The Packers went from ranking last (32nd) in the league in 2021 to No. 22 this season, which is their highest ranking in Matt LaFleur’s four years as coach.

The Packers’ special teams ranked No. 26 in 2019 and No. 29 in 2020, which were LaFleur’s first two seasons with the Packers.

Gosselin’s rankings are based on composite scoring in the NFL’s 22 kicking-game statistical categories. Points are assigned according to the ranking in each category – one for best, 32 for worst – so the lower the score, the better. He’s been publishing his rankings since 1985.

Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia instructs during minicamp last offseason.

The Packers’ 408 points this season put them just ahead of No. 23 Arizona (408.5) and just behind No. 21 Pittsburgh (407.5).

Houston (255) ranked No. 1 overall, followed by Seattle (269.5), Baltimore (272), Carolina (277.5) and Buffalo (286).

The bottom two were Philadelphia (459) at No. 31 and Kansas City (461) at No. 32.

The Packers ranked last in one category, the number of kicks blocked, with four. The league average was 1.5. They didn’t rank first in any category.

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LaFleur made a big move last offseason to improve the Packers’ perennially substandard special teams by firing Mo Drayton after one season on the job. Drayton had been his second special teams coordinator – Shawn Mennenga held the role in LaFleur’s first two seasons.

LaFleur then hired Bisaccia at what’s believed to be the highest salary in the league (about $2 million) for a special teams coach.

Green Bay Packers returner Keisean Nixon celebrates scoring a touchdown on a kickoff return during the team's win over the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 1. Nixon was named a first-team All Pro in 2022.

Keisean Nixon gave the special teams a much-needed boost in 2022

The Packers’ special teams got a huge boost in the second half of the season when Keisean Nixon took over first as kickoff returner and then as the primary punt returner. Nixon ended up making first-team All-Pro kickoff returner and led the league in kickoff return yards (1,009) and was second in average yards per return (28.2). His average of 12.7 yards on punt returns would have led the league if he’d had enough returns to qualify for the leaderboard.

But even with Nixon leading the league individually, the Packers ranked No. 4 in kickoff return average for the season as a team.

In a sign of how bad the Packers’ special teams have been perennially, in the four years before LaFleur was coach they ranked 32nd, 16th, 29th and 17th under Ron Zook, who was Mike McCarthy’s last special teams coach. The highest they’ve finished since 2006 is tied for seventh in ‘07 under coordinator Mike Stock.

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