The Green Bay Packers special teams have been a problem for the team for a long time. When we last saw Al Hazm on the field, they lost a playoff at home by three points without giving up the defensive touchdown. The only time the 49ers made it to the end zone was in a prohibited kick that was recovered in the end zone. The Packers also had a field goal blocked in the final game of the first half that could have put the lead 10-0. Those two playoffs alone cost the Lakers 10 points in a match they lost by three. Unfortunately, weak special teams have been a problem all season.
Enter Rich Bisaccia. The Packers hired the former Raiders interim coach this off-season with the goal of improving this area of the team. While the start of the 2022 NFL season is still more than three months away, one thing is absolutely clear: Bisaccia is here to change the culture surrounding the Packers special teams units.
Bisaccia has nearly two decades of experience coaching special teams. He’s enjoyed success throughout his career teaching players how to excel in this long-neglected (by the Packers anyway) part of the game.
When he first met the media after being hired by the Packers, Bisaccia told reporters, “We’ll look into every nook and cranny to see what we can do to improve ourselves. There’s nothing specific.”
Well, Bisaccia wasted no time in starting to make the changes. The new Special Teams Coordinator already had input into roster decisions by adding players such as Keisean Nixon who was a special team regular with the Raiders under Bisaccia and kicker Dominik Eberle who is fighting Mason Crosby for the kick mission.
He also influenced the signing of gambler Pat O’Donnell, who will replace Cory Bogorques. O’Donnell is more consistent than Bojorquez and a better carrier, something the team struggled with throughout the 2021 season and was a major factor in Crosby’s struggle to score field goals.
Many of the Packers’ three draft picks were also made with special teams such as Tariq Carpenter and Jonathan Ford in mind. These juniors are expected to block, handle and cover kicks and kicks as they develop their game and prepare to play larger roles in attack or defence.
Although the Packers have only completed rookie camp and one round of volunteer OTAs, you can actually see some of the things Bisaccia is trying to do. It introduced new drills for special team units including having potential revenue professionals catching tennis balls in practice instead of soccer balls. While the philosophy sounds straight out of the movie “Dodgeball” (if you can pick up a wrench, you can catch a ball), there is an advantage to these drills and hopefully they’ll help bring back professionals to take kicks and launch cleanly once we get to full contact drills and even games.
Bisaccia also had several seasoned starters running special teams training during the past week’s volunteer OTAs. Having players like Aaron Jones, Adrian Amos and De’Vondre Campbell on the field for special teams training sends a message to all the players on the roster that special teams are a legitimate part of the team and not something to look at.
Since there are no sanitary pads during these drills, the risk of injury to veterans is minimal, but it gives the veteran leaders of this team insight into special teams and more ability to deliver what is needed in coverage and return teams to younger players. The ability of team leaders to encourage younger players and guide them through special teams only improves the atmosphere around the team and reinforces the importance of this aspect of the game.
Bisaccia also referred to special teams as “We-Fense” for adding to attack and defense as an integral part of the team. Again, this creates a sense of unity and importance around the teams’ special units.
It’s too early to tell how effective Bisaccia will be as a special teams coordinator, but he is certainly making changes to the unit and trying to change the culture surrounding the group that has always been a weak link in this team. That alone is cause for hope for the Packers special teams.