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News » Problem of special concern Stock's unit has regressed after excelling last season


Problem of special concern Stock's unit has regressed after excelling last season


Problem of special concern  Stock's unit has regressed after excelling last season
Green Bay - General manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy will have a job this off-season that goes well beyond figuring out why the Green Bay Packers couldn't score or hold their opponents from scoring at the end of so many games this season.


Also of concern during the Packers' dismal 5-10 season, which comes to a close Sunday at Lambeau Field, has been the special teams. The long cycle of ineptitude in that area seemed finally broken when Mike Stock's young unit performed so well last year.

But breakdowns in several areas this year have made 2007 seem like an aberration.

Just like they'll have to ask themselves whether they did a good enough job filling the leadership void created when Brett Favre left or overestimated their talent on defense, Thompson and McCarthy will have to determine whether the reason for the decline on special teams was due to personnel or Stock's coaching ability.

There are no easy answers.

Injuries certainly played a factor, and Thompson did Stock no favor when in the middle of the season he released veteran Tracy White, the established leader of the special teams, in order to keep undrafted free agent Danny Lansanah. Thompson did eventually add a special talent in Kenny Pettway, but too many of the core players from a year ago were absent from the lineup much of the year.

"You go with the makeup of the Football team and my job is to get these guys ready to play," Stock said. "That's my responsibility, whoever they are, whatever years they've been in the league, whatever their experience or lack thereof. That's my job. I'm the coach. Get them ready to play."

In his 18th year in the NFL and 15th coaching special teams, Stock is a trusted member of McCarthy's staff and a colleague from their days in Kansas City. But just like players, coaches have to produce, and in two of the three seasons leading the special teams Stock hasn't done it.

In Stock's first season - when Thompson was still remaking the team - the Packers were last in the Dallas Morning News special-teams rankings. In 2007, they made a drastic improvement, jumping to a tie for seventh on the strength of outstanding coverage units and a solid punt-return game.

This season, the numbers are down again, and special teams have been as big a part of the Packers' failures as last-minute letdowns on offense and defense. The fiery Stock said he has no intention of retiring and wants another shot to show that he can make something out of the talent he is given.

"Worry about it?" Stock said of his future. "I'm disappointed. But I don't do that. Rest assured this: The work that goes on from Monday through Sunday (of) the game is as good as we can do, and it's as hard as I can do it. It's as concise as I can make it, to set the game plan and prepare on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In the meetings and on the field.

"And I have no reservation (in saying I haven't) left something in the bag for later. I spend everything I got in the preparation part of it. I'm a fighter on the sideline, I'm enthusiastic on the sideline, because that's the way I am."

According to cornerback Jarrett Bush, who is one of the core members of the special-teams units, Stock's schemes are solid and easy to understand. He likened them to man-to-man coverage in which all the players have to do is worry about their assignment and try not to be heroes.

"Sometimes you have to do something to help your other teammate," Bush said. "Like we call it chipping, where you're running down the field and some guy's in your way but he's not blocking you, you hit him so that the next guy can get free. It slows you down, but at the same time it helps your teammate out.

"Mistakes happen when you try to do too much."

There are essentially two areas where the Packers have failed: kickoff coverage and punting. If those two areas would have been fixed during the season, the results might have been different.

Poor kickoff coverage has been a big part of the Packers' problems. They have allowed seven returns of 40 or more yards and several of them have been killers.

Long returns in the Chicago, Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta games led either to defeats or changed the momentum of the game.

In fairness to Stock, only six of the 11 players who started the season on the kickoff-coverage unit - including kicker Mason Crosby - are still there. Losing White might have been the biggest blow because of his leadership.

"He was kind of a quiet leader, because he'd take guys into the video room and sit and talk and discuss the various different aspects of the Big Four, if you will, of the return aspects and the coverage aspects of the game with the young guys," Stock said, answering a specific question about White. "That's what he did."

The punting debacle is well-documented.

Stock wouldn't say whose choice it was to cut incumbent Jon Ryan and sign Derrick Frost shortly before the season started, but sources have said it was a move made by the front office. Each week, Frost would punt well in practice and then fold in games. Losses to Minnesota and Carolina were due in part to terrible field position.

Thompson and McCarthy saw the results and could have cut their losses much earlier than early December, when they released Frost and signed Jeremy Kapinos. Whether Stock had anything to do with Frost's failure or kicker Mason Crosby's inability to hit clutch kicks is something Thompson and McCarthy will have to determine after the season.

Asked whether he intends to stick around for many years to come, Stock said: "It all depends on one thing and one thing only: How long does he (McCarthy) want me to stay? That's what it depends on."

NOTHING SPECIAL

The Green Bay Packers jumped from last in 2006 to tied for seventh last year in the Dallas Morning News special-teams rankings. But it looks as if they'll be back among the NFL's worst when the final numbers for 2008 are tallied. Here are some of the Packers' statistics through 15 games compared to 2007 (NFL rankings, where available, are in parentheses):

2008 2007

Kickoff return average 19.9 (32) 21.8 (23)

Punt return average 11.1 (5) 10.3 (7)

Opponent KOR average 23.8 (22) 20.9 (7)

Opponent PR average 7.5 (9) 5.9 (4)

Average drive start 25.9 (23) 27 (22)

Opponent's start 27.7 (21) 26.6 (9)

Punt average 41.5 (27) 43 (16)

Net punt average 35.6 (25) 37.6 (11)

Punts inside the 20 13 (T-29) 18 (T-25)

Opponent punt average 44.4 (22) 42.5 (8)

Opponent net average 37.4 (16) 33.8 (4)

Points scored 12 (NA) 24 (NA)

Points allowed 0 (NA) 6 (NA)

Penalties 23 (NA) 25 (NA)

Forced fumbles 1 (NA) 3 (NA)

Recovered fumbles 0 (NA) 3 (NA)

JSOnline.com

Tom Silverstein posts news, notes and analysis at jsonline.com/blogs
Copyright 2008, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved. (Note: This notice does not apply to those news items already copyrighted and received through wire services or other media.)



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 26, 2008

Quintin Mikell Name: Quintin Mikell
#27
Position: S
Age: 27
Experience: 6 years
College: Boise State
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