We thought the Green Bay Packers’ special teams units — despite some gaffes and poor performances here and there — were alright in 2016. We were wrong, at least according to the Dallas Morning News’ annual special teams rankings.
The Packers finished 29th in the league, down from 17th a year ago.
The rankings are based on 22 different special teams categories. The best unit in each category gets one point, the second-best unit gets two points and so forth. The lower the overall point total, the better.
The Packers finished with 456.5 points. Comparatively, the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished at the top, had 226.5 points.
Green Bay was league worst in kickoff coverage (26.3 yards) and opponent kickoff starting point (26.6-yard line).
So what happened?
You can probably chalk up the team’s coverage woes to two players. Jeff Janis wasn’t the dominant special teams force he was in 2015 until very late in the season. He played the early part of the year with a club on his broken hand, which limited his effectiveness. The Packers’ next best special teams player, safety Chris Banjo — who was a playoff captain in 2015, was released in October.
We’ve long talked about the importance of special teams and how the Packers seemingly don’t ever care about that aspect of the game. Interestingly, these rankings underscore that importance. Of the 12 2016 playoff teams, three had a top 11-ranked defense, six had a top 11-ranked offense, but seven of the teams had a top 11-ranked special teams unit.