the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NFC North Specialists 2011

We head north, NFC style, in our continuing overview of this year's  NFL specialists:

Chicago Bears
Two of the three Bears starting specialists remain the same - long snapper Patrick Mannelly and kicker Robbie Gould. The change is at punter/holder where the team parted ways with Brad Maynard and snagged Adam Podlesh from the Jaguars via free agency. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub noted, “[Podlesh] was always our No. 1 guy. As soon as we were able to call him, we tried to recruit him. He fits us. He’s very athletic, he runs a 4.4, he’s got great hands, and he’s a directional punter. He’s a young Maynard is what he is. He’s reaching his prime right now.” Undrafted rookie Spencer Lanning out of South Carolina is the camp leg for both kicking and punting.

Detroit Lions
Veteran long snapper Don Muhlbach does not have any competition in camp. Veteran kicker Jason HansonNick Harris do. Hanson can certainly still kick, but he’ll need to show no lingering effects from injuries that caused him to miss games each of the last two years. If his health is still questionable that could open the door for last year’s injury replacement, journeyman Dave Rayner, to retain the job. Harris faces undrafted rookie challenger Ryan Donahue out of Iowa, one of the top rated punters in this year’s class. and veteran punter/holder

Green Bay Packers
The Packers enter camp with three specialists, all the same starters as last year. Brett Goode is back at long snapper and punter/holder Tim Masthay is coming off a 2010 season where he finished strong during the playoffs. Kicker Mason Crosby became a free agent under the new CBA; however the team quickly re-signed him to a new 5-year deal. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said of Crosby, "Mason's been very solid. The one quality I think is really good is he rarely misses two in a row…. He needs to take the next step in his future making walk-off field goals. I would like our kicker to be 90%.... We have a difficult place to kick in Lambeau."

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings did not lose kicker Ryan Longwell to free agency, re-signing him to a 4-year deal. Longwell was happy, "[My wife] Sarah and I are really excited to be back with the Vikings. It was our intention all along to stay if we could, so we feel so blessed it worked out this way. I'm a big believer in the way Coach [Leslie] Frazier approaches life and football, so I can't wait to get to work." The other two specialists also remain the same this year: long snapper Cullen Loeffler, who had a quiet summer, and punter/holder Chris Kluwe, who significantly increased his media presence this summer. Camp leg duties belong to Nate Whitaker, an undrafted rookie out of Stanford.

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