Cory's Corner: How important is a holder?

The Packers have said that Super Bowls are their mission.

If that’s the case, why allow one aspect of your team to anchor yourself to the ground?

Last year, Tim Masthay had one of his worst seasons as a punter. And that was coming off a season in which he had two punts blocked.

That prompted the Packers to make a lukewarm effort by bringing in undrafted rookie free agent Peter Mortell to compete with Masthay. Mortell grew up in the shadow of Lambeau Field and played high school ball at Green Bay’s Notre Dame Academy. His career 44-yard average is No. 1 in the University of Minnesota record book.

In two preseason games, Mortell clearly has the edge. He’s nearly seven yards better in average (49.2-42.6) has four balls inside the 20 compared to Masthay’s one and he’s got a booming long punt of 62 yards — 11 yards longer than Masthay.

For all intents and purposes, this competition is over. Mortell is better. Period. But it may still be Masthay’s job.

Why?

Because he’s been a Packers punter for six years. He’s not just asked to punt, but he’s also called upon to be the holder for kicker Mason Crosby. Masthay and Crosby have a great chemistry and that is the X-factor in this entire competition. If the Packers are going to get a new punter, they must be sure that the holding duties are taken care of.

But if the Packers really want to be serious about a Super Bowl, the Packers should look to Denver. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 with a punishing defense and a consistent 45-yard average from eight punts by Britton Colquitt, who is entering his seventh pro season. His reward? Having to earn his spot with Riley Dixon, an all-ACC punter taken in the seventh round out of Syracuse.

Colquitt is 31 and showed on the game’s biggest stage that he has plenty of leg, and moxie, left in the tank to win another ring. Masthay is 29 and has been plagued with consistency issues the last two seasons. If the Packers hang on to him again, it’s clear that a holder has more importance than a punter.

But flipping the field matters when you glance at the NFC. Carolina, Seattle, Arizona and Green Bay are all legitimate Super Bowl contenders. In the AFC, I’m only seeing New England and Pittsburgh and those two have stumbling blocks right out of the gate.

Punting comes in handy when you’re playing a home playoff game and the opposing team has to go 85 yards in the waning minutes for the game-tying score. That’s how important punting is and how much better it can make a team.

The Packers are a very talented football team right now. The defense looks like it will be making some noise to go along with a high-flying offense.

It’s time this team got a much better insurance policy than someone who is friends with the place kicker — which would go a long ways to sweetening coach Mike McCarthy’s 8-7 playoff record. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (49)

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Nick Perry's picture

August 20, 2016 at 09:24 am

Ummm......The 2013 Broncos punted 65 times, 2007 Patriots punted 45 times, the 2011 Packers 55 times. Those are the Top 3 scoring teams in NFL History. I'd say Offense, Defense, and Special Teams are ALL part of the game. You DO KNOW Special Teams are just as important right Cow?

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gr7070's picture

August 20, 2016 at 10:15 am

Special teams is absolutely *not* "just as important".

While it's important it's no where near as important as O or D. STs is about 3 or 4 times *less* important.

And regardless of what we've heard for decades, especially so in the modern NFL, offense is most important of all.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/info/fo-basics

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Nick Perry's picture

August 20, 2016 at 02:16 pm

Yeah Dude...TELL THAT CRAP TO THE 2014 PACKERS!!!!!!! ST Play was the ONLY reason the Packers didn't play in the SB and lost that game in Seattle. I don't give a damn what "Football Outsiders" says.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

August 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

Holding is very important. So Mortell has got to show he can hold without a single hiccup. And the Packers have to make sure Crosby is extremely comfortable with the change.

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Nick Perry's picture

August 20, 2016 at 02:24 pm

My bad Cow.

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MarkinMadison's picture

August 20, 2016 at 07:41 am

I think Mortell is more than a lukewarm shot. Teams rarely draft punters and Martell is as good of a prospect as any. Add in that Martell set the Minnesota record while punting outdoors in one of the coldest states with a major college program and you see the logic of the choice.

The only way to judge the holding is repetition. Is anyone tracking Crosby's success rate in practice? Are they noting who the holder was? I'm sure the Packers are paying attention.

A change is needed. Unless there is a significant difference in holding. I mean Martell needs to screw with Crosby's effectiveness. Otherwise the job should be his. the defense will be that much better with a consistent punter.

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4thand1's picture

August 21, 2016 at 12:31 pm

I think it was Mortell holding on at least one of the 54 yarders in the Browns game.

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gr7070's picture

August 20, 2016 at 09:22 am

The holder is only that important if it's a very difficult skill to replace.

Judging by the countless players of all ages that manage to hold i would think someone who handles long snaps on a daily basis, like any punter, can manage to hold.

I'm sure some are more capable than others, but i would imagine the minimum threshold skill level to hold consistently well is not that high a bar.

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John Galt III's picture

August 21, 2016 at 01:19 pm

There are 53 guys on the team and 46 suit up. Why does the punter HAVE to be the holder? All you need is someone with good hands:

QB's
WR's
DB's
Punters

The first three groups can do a trick play. A punter is least likely to accomplish that.

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Portland Mark's picture

August 21, 2016 at 01:43 pm

Mastay threw a TD pass on 4th down vs the Bears in 2012 and ran for a first down against the Cardinals last year. In fact, Mastay's run was probably the best Packer play in that beat down they got in AZ.

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marpag1's picture

August 20, 2016 at 09:30 am

How important is a holder?

Ask Tony Romo.

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gr7070's picture

August 20, 2016 at 09:45 am

Holders make mistakes, of course.

The question is how often do those mistakes happen as we move up and down the ability level of holders.

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Nick Perry's picture

August 20, 2016 at 10:04 am

Priceless..

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Nick Perry's picture

August 20, 2016 at 02:24 pm

Or the Queens last year, though Walsh did make one, he missed the one that mattered at the end. Holder kept spinning the ball with the laces facing the kicker. Not important at all. ... WIDE LEFT!

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4thand1's picture

August 21, 2016 at 12:32 pm

You mean Blair Finkle?

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Since'61's picture

August 20, 2016 at 09:48 am

Obviously a holder is always critical. However, with the current rules friendly passing environment in the NFL being able to pin your opponent inside their own 20 yard line or gaining an extra 5-10 yards on a punt exchange has become equally important especially late in one possession games. If I'm the Packers I keep the better punter(Mortell) and the practice with the holder non-stop. I always liked the idea of the backup QB as the holder because it keeps the fake FG as a realistic possibility. I realize there is an injury risk but this is football and any holder is subject to injury anyway. For now Mortell,is my punter and we practice holding until it is perfect. Thanks, Since '61

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Portland Mark's picture

August 21, 2016 at 01:48 pm

Why not try Cobb as a holder? Didn't he have some experience in college at QB? He certainly can run and is a very dynamic player.

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Spud Rapids's picture

August 22, 2016 at 04:23 pm

The reason the punter is always the holder is all about reps. While Cobb is running routes Mastay is holding for Crosby and getting rep after rep with him. That is much more important when it comes to adverse weather than the slight possibility of a fake attempt.

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Michalske's picture

August 20, 2016 at 09:48 am

I wonder (like MarkinMadison) just how many times last year's 'competitor' for Masthay's job had a bad hold in practice. A bad hold can lose you a game or end a season -- if you don't get that, google 'Laces OUT, Dan!'

But wait, there's more:

What's the hang time like?

Can the kid consistently do placement and directional punts?

How much of the difference in the average is explained by the coverage guys downing a punt at the 1 yard line with their foot on the goal line turning it into a touchback? (after just 2 games, even one more of those for Masthay can take 2 yards off his average not to mention subtracting 1 successful 'inside the 20' (And the 1 example I am thinking of was definitely on the coverage guy, not the punter.)

For that matter, how consistent can you say anybody is after just 2 games? (Im not in GB, I don't get to see practices. For those of you who can, how much time do you actually spend watching the punters and FG kicks?)

In the kid's favor, He's BEEN HOLDING. Its not like they aren't giving him a legitimate chance to win the job.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 20, 2016 at 10:28 am

1) I think Mortell is ahead of Masthay in terms of punting, but not by as much as the author suggests. Mortell has been inconsistent in practice - and in games. That 54-yarder that the returner muffed was a bit of a line drive, and his first punt lacked hang time, too. Ditto Masthay, though.

2) Holding is important since we are talking about points. Still, I don't believe Masthay is the Mozart of holders - he is good but as far as I know not the GOAT at it. There isn't a big enough sample during the pre-season games to judge Mortell's ability to hold.

I am leaning towards Mortell, but he needs to be the decisive victor during this camp battle.

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Michalske's picture

August 20, 2016 at 10:48 am

Thanks for the info, especially about practices.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

August 20, 2016 at 10:50 am

Mortell is ahead in distance but not hang time. As much as it pains me to say it unless Mortell can add a few seconds he will not win out.

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croatpackfan's picture

August 22, 2016 at 02:59 am

Tim Mashtay is consistent punter. When he punts from inside own 20, his punts flies 25-30 yards. Always. Very consistent in giving short field to opponents!

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4EVER's picture

August 20, 2016 at 04:47 pm

Can't help myself...

"There isn't a big enough sample"

Put Rodgers in...for a larger sampling!

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marpag1's picture

August 20, 2016 at 11:02 am

There is no rule that says the punter and the holder need to be the same person. Just saying...

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marpag1's picture

August 20, 2016 at 11:21 am

Agreed. But no one should keep a crappy punter because he can hold, or a crappy holder because he can punt. The article and some of the replies seem to suggest that there is no other option except for a punter.

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lucky953's picture

August 20, 2016 at 11:33 am

How hard is holding? Has anybody here done it? I have no idea.

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LeagueObsrvr's picture

August 20, 2016 at 11:50 am

I've never been a holder, but I would think it can be a difficult skill to master consistently. You have to catch the ball cleanly from the snapper, and set the ball upright (I'm guessing with the laces pointed out or in depending on which hash you're kicking from?) and all this must be done in something like, under 5 seconds?

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marpag1's picture

August 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm

From snap to kick should be LESS than 1.5 seconds. So yeah, you need to be pretty nifty with your hands... especially when the whole world is watching.

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T-Buck's picture

August 20, 2016 at 11:40 am

Masthay was the holder during Crosbys disastrous 2012 season. Were the holds poor or did Masthay just have the yips?

Regardless, the Ginger Wolverine needs to go.

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Slim11's picture

August 20, 2016 at 11:47 am

As a former HS/college punter and kicker, I liked having a DB/WR/TE/P holding for me instead of a QB. The reason is those players catch a spinning ball coming at them at a high rate of speed instead of a direct snap under center. Some may remember former Dallas Cowboy TE Jay Novacek was their holder for a long time. He was very good at it.

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WKUPackFan's picture

August 20, 2016 at 02:36 pm

It's a false choice as presented. Of course the Packers are not going to keep a clearly inferior punter simply because he is a great holder. However, they might keep a slightly inferior punter for that reason.

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Tundraboy's picture

August 20, 2016 at 03:19 pm

All good points here today. Number of shanked punts weighs heavily with me. Those are what are killers for us. Always seem to happen at the worst possible time.

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marpag1's picture

August 20, 2016 at 04:12 pm

LOL. Get a load of this. Last year Mortell dubbed himself "Holder of the Year."

I think he was joking....

https://twitter.com/PMortell1/status/671723491071098880

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Nick Perry's picture

August 22, 2016 at 05:22 am

marpag1....Check this out...

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=14339911

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lucky953's picture

August 20, 2016 at 05:06 pm

I like that idea D Thomas. I have no love for Mortell but an upgrade at punter is needed.

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croatpackfan's picture

August 20, 2016 at 04:49 pm

As I remember, that super holder Tim Mashtay was called for ball, while Mason did not expect it and he gave the ball to the opponent . Are you advocating that Mashtay?
How important is ST - read Nick Perry comment. You can have top O and top D, but if you have crap ST, you'll not survive to go to playoff...
You can not win Sb if you have any part of the team bad. Especially punting!

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AgrippaLII's picture

August 20, 2016 at 08:30 pm

Did you bother to read any of Mortell's scouting reports before you got the notion to write this story? Not only can he out kick Masthay...he's a better holder too! He was College Football's Holder of the year two years ago...it's one of his strength's listed in his scouting report. I don't see MM passing up this golden opportunity to upgrade his special teams.

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WKUPackFan's picture

August 21, 2016 at 06:04 am

No need to be harsh on the author. I sense some Mortell worship here.

Regardless of occasional shanks, Masthay has considerable experience. Placing the punting and holding in a rookie's hands might not be the greatest idea for a contending team.

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Nick Perry's picture

August 21, 2016 at 07:01 am

Common now, we're talking about a team who kept A.J. Hawk for at least 2 years too long. I thought you were actually BS'ing about the "Holder of the Year Award" but you weren't!!

http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=14339911

I like this kid!!!

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Ferrari Driver's picture

August 20, 2016 at 10:48 pm

I think the Packers should watch the cut to 53. Neither guy the Packers have is even average.

The Packers have a number of talented guys who will not make the 53. One of the better ones may serve as as a trade to improve the punting situation in Green Bay.

Just a thought.

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Kubyskins21's picture

August 21, 2016 at 06:59 am

I would rather have mortell. I can't remember the last time mast hay hit a 60 yard punt. Whenever the packers are pinned deep near there own end zone you know masthay is going to kick a weak 35 yard punt and they will be starting at the 50 yard line or better. Whenever we need him to hit a bomb to flipped field position he hits terrible punt. In this last game first the Raiders the packers were pinned deep in own territory and they gave mortell the punt and he hit a bomb that flipped field position. I would rather have punter that change field position like mortell is capable of doing not masthay and his weak 38 yard punts he always hits and sure mortell plenty capable enough to be holder. Looks to be doing just fine in games so far, plus he's proven holder from college so not worried about that at all.

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TommyG's picture

August 21, 2016 at 07:02 am

How important? Ask Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Seattle Seahawks how important a holder can be.

In other words: no one gives a crap until the crap hits the fan. When that happens the holder is the most important guy on the field.

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croatpackfan's picture

August 21, 2016 at 11:10 am

Very True!

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sheppercheeser's picture

August 21, 2016 at 07:06 am

I'm surprised that place-holding has come into question with Mortell, since he was rated the best place-holder in the Big 10. Masthay has had his chance. Put in some youth, some excitement and at a lower salary.

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4thand1's picture

August 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Why not have someone like Cobb hold? He did some QBing in college, has good hands, plus can run. If a play breaks down they'd have a better chance of making something happen.

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Allan Murphy's picture

August 21, 2016 at 04:12 pm

My Question what happen to Corey Bankie and Aaron Naglers Packers transplants ??????????????

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ray nichkee's picture

August 21, 2016 at 06:18 pm

The strohker is ruining the comment section again. Way to go DouchebagPackFan. I love your don't argue with me because I'm always right attitude you bring here. Quit day drinking and acting out like a brat. You're making cow look good.

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4thand1's picture

August 21, 2016 at 09:19 pm

Hundley says he's day to day and doesn't think it's serious other than the sprain he already had.

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