This is the last in a series of articles providing an in-depth analysis of each position group on the Green Bay Packers for 2023. Today we will analyze the special teams. The grades will be for each unit as a whole, but we will give an analysis of each player, their strengths and weaknesses and where they stand heading into the offseason. Here are the grades for the Packers special teams in 2023. The marks are based on a combination of expectations and performance.
You can see our final grade for the quarterbacks here and for the defensive line here. The running backs are here, the inside linebackers here, and tight ends here. You can find the edge rushers here, the offensive line here, the secondary here and wide receivers here.
Final Grade for the Packers Special Teams: Kicker and Long Snapper
Kicker Anders Carlson had an uneven rookie season. He started off the season red hot after a shaky training camp. But he missed five extra points and six field goals. His biggest issue was missing between 40 and 49 yards where he only went 4-of-8. He also missed a key field goal in the playoffs against San Francisco that could have put the Pack ahead by seven late in the fourth quarter.
Nobody questions Carlson’s leg strength, but he needs to be more consistent. Rich Bisaccia worked with Carlson’s brother, Daniel, when he was with the Raiders and hopes to improve Anders as well.
The Packers already signed Jack Podlesny to compete with Carlson in training camp. The former Georgia star was more consistent in college than Carlson but doesn’t have as strong a leg.
Long snapper, Matt Orzech also struggled this season. His inconsistency certainly didn’t help Carlson’s kicking. Look for the Packers to bring in competition for Orzech as well this offseason.
Final Grade for the Packers Special Teams: Punter and Holder
Daniel Whelan was the punter and the holder for the Packers this year. His holding often salvaged the shaky snaps on field goals and extra points.
As a punter, Whelan averaged a healthy 46.2-yards per kick. He also placed 18 kicks inside the 20 and had five touchbacks. The punting average is impressive for a team that plays so many games in cold weather.
Whelan did a solid job for the Packers in his first season with the team.
Kick and Punt Returns and Coverage Teams
Keisean Nixon earned All Pro honors as a return specialist for the second consecutive season. He led the NFL in kick return yards with 782 and in average yards per return with 26.1.
Nixon is fearless and always wants to make a big play. He took some kicks out of the end zone that he probably should have downed, especially early in the season. By the end of the campaign, he was returning to form as a kick returner.
Will the Packers re-sign Nixon who is an unrestricted free agent this offseason? They should want him back, but will another team offer him more money than the Packers are willing to pay?
Nixon wasn’t as dynamic as a punt returner. He averaged 6.8-yards on 14 runbacks with a long return of 34 yards. Jayden Reed averaged 8.5 yards per punt return on 11 runbacks with a long of 35. By contrast, Reed made 14 fair catches while Nixon had just one.
The coverage teams were a mixed bag. Kick return coverage allowed 23.8-yards per runback which was respectable. But the punt return coverage allowed opponents an average of 11.7-yards per return including a touchdown.
The special teams units as a whole struggled with penalties and that number needs to be reduced.
Final Grade for the Packers 2023 Special Teams
The special teams units still ranked close to the bottom of the league. According to Rick Gosselin’s rankings, the Packers had the 29th best special teams unit in the NFL. Only the Commanders, Dolphins, and Rams were lower.
Despite the investment in the position and the addition of Bisaccia, this unit still has a long way to go. Without Nixon, this ranking would be even lower.
FINAL GRADE: D+
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