Crosby takes step back to move forward on kickoffs

Weston Hodkiewicz
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The competition with Giorgio Tavecchio gained the most attention, but it wasn't the only battle Mason Crosby felt he benefited from last season.

Mason Crosby kicks off against the Jets.

The other came on kickoffs against Packers punter and close friend Tim Masthay.

Masthay actually handled the duties for the first five games of last season until Crosby re-established himself in the role and maintained it for the rest of the season. Still, experience got Crosby thinking.

After the season, the eighth-year kicker spent a lot of time in the film room trying to glean some more insight into Masthay's kickoff approach and how he might be able to apply certain aspects to his own game.

What resulted was Crosby taking a step back in his own approach from 8 to 9 yards deep. It's not quite the 12-yard approach Masthay used on kickoffs, but it's something Crosby believes has allowed him to strike the ball better.

"I've backed up a yard and feel like I'm very rhythmic. My timing is as good as it's been in years," said Crosby, who has already surpassed his 13 touchbacks from last season on 30 fewer attempts.

"I don't feel like I'm wasting any energy as I'm going to the ball. Some of that is Tim, I was always impressed with his hang time on his kickoffs. I kind of saw some of the things he did. I took some of the things I thought I did well and tried to put them together."

Through five games, Crosby is on pace to set new career-highs in kickoff average (64.3 yards) and touchback percentage (51.9). His 21.6-yards per return is the lowest since his rookie season in 2007 (20.9).

Crosby is not Indianapolis punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee, who has had only four of his 37 kickoffs returned this season, but that's not what's being asked of the Packers' kicker, either.

Sometimes it's about trying to corner a kickoff at the right depth to lure a returner out and tackle him before the 20-yard line. The Packers used the tactic at times in last week's 42-10 win over Minnesota to quiet Vikings returner Cordarrelle Patterson.

"I felt like my timing was off on kickoffs and I might have been losing a little hang and power if I wasn't just perfect," said Crosby of his approach in previous years. "I feel really good. We kind of cut it loose a little bit more. I'm able to go after it and try to hit my best ball every time. I feel like my hang and my distance have been solid." and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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