Special teams have been a problem area for the Green Bay Packers for a long time now. So, at the end of the 2021 preseason, the Packers traded for punter Corey Bojorquez from the Los Angeles Rams to help improve themselves in that area.
The results in 2021 were mixed. Bojorquez started the season on fire. His strong leg and excellent hangtime were on display nearly every game. He clearly had a strong leg and he also did a good job of placing punts inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line.
In Week 6 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Bojorquez had the second longest punt in Packers history when he got off an 82-yard punt against the Bears. The line of scrimmage was the Packers 18 and the kick went all the way into the end zone for a touchback.
While Bojorquez’s punting was strong early in the season, there were issues elsewhere in Bojorquez’s game. Part of his job was to hold for Mason Crosby on field goals and extra points. The chemistry and timing between Crosby and Bojorquez were off and the kicking game struggled as a result.
The worst example came against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5 when Crosby missed three field goals and one extra point. The Packers managed to pull out a 25-22 overtime win when Crosby hit a 49-yard field goal but the middle of the season was a big struggle for the kicking game.
The holding for field goals improved late in the season, but Bojorquez started to have trouble with his punting. First, the Packers punt coverage was an issue. Longer punt returns started to become more frequent. The worst moment there came in the Packers 45-30 win over the Bears in December when Jakeem Grant returned one of Bojorquez’s punts 97 yards for a touchdown. Even though it came in Week 14, it was the first punt return for a touchdown in the NFL all season.
Bojorquez’s punting also fell off when the weather got colder in Green Bay late in the season. This came as a surprise to many observers since the punter had previously spent three seasons in Buffalo kicking for the Bills.
In the final home game against the Vikings, Bojorquez averaged just 31.5-yards per punt. One week later, he only punted once indoors against Detroit but it only went 35 yards.
For the entire season, Bojorquez’s numbers looked good. He averaged 46.6-yards per punt, placed 18 kicks inside the opponent’s 20 and had only four touchbacks.
But then came the playoff game against the 49ers. While Bojorquez put up good numbers for the game with five punts which averaged 47 yards, he had one kick blocked which the 49ers returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Packers had led since scoring on their first drive of the game and were ahead 10-3 before the blocked kick. It was clearly the turning point of the game which the Packers lost when San Francisco kicked a field goal on the final play of regulation.
The Packers have hired a new special teams coordinator in Rich Bisaccia. The former Raiders coach has been tasked with the assignment of turning around the team’s struggling special teams. He has more than 20-yeaers experience and a proven track-record of having good and occasionally great special teams units.
We do not yet know what the former Raiders coach thinks of Bojorquez and whether he wants to bring him back in 2022. The Packers are also having salary cap issues and may be able to save money by signing a rookie punter who they could pay less than an experienced veteran like Bojorquez. But would that be consistent with the team’s stated commitment to improve their special teams unit which were perhaps the biggest reason for their playoff loss to San Francisco?
Punting in Green Bay is not an easy task. During the second half of the season, the winds can be tricky and the cold weather makes the ball hard and difficult to kick for long distances. As a punter, Bojorquez was the best at the position that the Packers had in some time, despite his late-season slump.
GM Brian Gutekunst has a tough decision ahead when deciding whether to re-sign Bojorquez.
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