Bisaccia still constructing special teams units

Returner, kicker among spots that still have question marks
Luke Reimer

Since Green Bay Packers special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia joined the team, the special teams unit, which had been struggling for so many years, started to see a turn around.

In fact, Keisean Nixon’s kick return for a touchdown last year was the first Packers kick return touchdown since Randall Cobb did so in his debut game in 2011. This year, given the lack of experience on both sides of the ball, success on special teams should be a priority for Green Bay. With tight end Tyler Davis, who has recently played a large role on special teams, out for the season, Bisaccia may need to put in that much more work to win the third aspect of the game.

Nixon’s workload may be reduced this coming season though, as the All-Pro kick returner figures to play a larger role on the defense this season with the injury to Eric Stokes. That could leave the door open to someone else to take one of the returner spots. In Green Bay’s week two preseason game, Jayden Reed and Samori Toure saw those reps.

“Certainly, (Reed) has return value for us in the kicking game,” said Bisaccia. “We thought he was really good at it coming out of college and he hasn’t disappointed us to this point in the game.”

Reed is another player, like Nixon, who may not be able to give their full time attention to special teams, due to the expanded roles on offense and defense.

If there has been a downside to the special teams unit since Bisaccia arrived, it has been the kicking game. Mason Crosby’s kicking strength declined over the last couple of years, which accounted for Matt LaFleur’s continued push to go for fourth downs and Crosby’s 20.3% touch back percentage on kickoffs last season. Now, Bisaccia is working rookie kicker Anders Carlson, who has struggled throughout the summer, but made two extra points and one field goal in Green Bay’s game against New England.

“(Carlson) has exhibited a lot of the things that we thought he was — in positive ways — there is always going to be things to clean up,” said Bisaccia on working with Carlson. “Patience comes a little bit with age and to some degree wisdom and believing in the character of who the man is and I think we believe in that.”

While roster cuts will ultimately determine the special teams roster this season, the last preseason game needs to be the final audition for some players trying to make the team. With the aforementioned Davis out for the season, the player best suited to replace him may come from someone who is on the roster bubble.