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Cory's Corner: Ron Zook Deserves Credit

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Cory's Corner: Ron Zook Deserves Credit

The play that energized everyone at Lambeau Field on a sweltering Sunday afternoon was one that hadn’t been done since 2012. 

That’s how long it has been since the Packers blocked a punt for a touchdown. The person behind it was special teams coordinator Ron Zook.

The moment Josh Jackson gently came down in the north end zone marked the first special teams touchdown by the Packers since 2014.

“I had the easy job,” Jackson said after the Vikings and Packers tied 29-29. “All I had to do was catch it. But G-Mo got through and he was able to get his hand on the ball, pop it right up and right place right time.”

Zook deserves all the credit for putting the 6-foot-3 wide receiver in a perfect place to expose a Vikings punt team unit that has been a mess ever since they signed punter Matt Wile on Sept. 2 after being cut by Pittsburgh.

Special teams are a fickle third of a football team. It never gets enough credit when it does something well and it usually takes a beating when it makes a mistake. However, you cannot field a successful team with subpar special teams.

And after two games, the most consistent unit on the field has been special teams. The offense has had its fair share of dropped balls and has shown leaks in the offensive line. The defense has tackling as its main wart and pass rushing from the edge rushers remains nonexistent.

Zook took the special teams job from Shawn Slocum, who was eventually fired by his friend and head coach Mike McCarthy. Now in his fourth season leading the unit, it is really special because he has a punter that is top 10 in the league in average at 50.1 yards per punt and a kicker that is the all-time leading scorer in Packers history.

I realize that there are many out there that are quick to criticize Mason Crosby for missing the 52-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. But the Packers didn’t tie that game because of Crosby and if anyone actually thinks that, they couldn’t be more wrong.

The reason the Vikings and Packers tied is because the offense couldn’t finish drives. Crosby nailed five field goals — that’s too many field goals against a quality opponent in the NFL. At some point, you have to convert drives into touchdowns or else you’re at risk of seeing teams come crawling back.

This is actually a perfect time for the special teams to be playing well. The offense cannot get in lockstep just yet as it waits for its top running back to come back and the defense needs it playmakers to play more snaps in the defensive backfield.

As hard as it may be for some people, Zook deserves a lot of credit.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (31) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Nick Perry's picture

"The reason the Vikings and Packers tied is because the offense couldn’t finish drives."

This is actually a great point by Cory, one that has gotten lost by many of us (myself included) because of the atrocious officiating Sunday afternoon.

The Packers were 1 of 5 in the Red-Zone and the Vikings were 2 of 3 AND converted a 2 pt play with ease at the end of the game. Now if the Packers are really serious SB contenders 1 of 5 isn't going to cut it in the playoffs where most teams will have a pretty tough defense.

So far through 2 weeks I just haven't see the "Scrub-brush McCarthy took to the playbook. I haven't seen anything to suggest when the Packers absolutely positively have to have a TD in the Red-Zone for example, McCarthy has something in his bag of tricks. Matter of fact I'm starting to wonder if McCarthy even has a bag at all or he's actually going to continue to do what he's done the last several seasons...Ride Rodgers jock and be predictable.

RCPackerFan's picture

To be fair, one of the drives resulted in a TD, and was taken away with a bad penalty. And of course that was a 3rd down penalty so it made it 3rd and really long.

Also lets not forget that Rodgers is playing on 1 1/2 legs. While him being able to play is great, we have to acknowledge he isn't the same player.

Honestly these 2 weeks really aren't a big enough sample size to draw any conclusions about the team. Rodgers is playing hurt which changes what they can do.
Last week they got way behind, and this week they were playing with a gimpy Rodgers.

Lets give it some time.

BaldingersBentDigit's picture

I agree RC, I'm willing to wait for a new defense, new coordinator and many new pieces to acclimate itself over the first 4-6 weeks. Give the unit some time and throw in a moderate adjustment over the bye week and I think this team will be very competitive. If we have a top ten defense, competitive special teams and a healthy offense we will be set for the playoffs.

RCPackerFan's picture

We just faced what many consider to be one of if not the best defense in the league. We scored 29 points on them with our QB on one leg. Also we had one TD taken away from us on a bogus call. So technically we should have scored 33 points.

We are seeing the new TE's getting more work in the offense, Graham had a big day which honestly should have been bigger. He had the TD taken away from him but he had 95 yards receiving.
Also I noticed MVS's snap count went up a bit. He went from 2 snaps in week 1 to 6 in week 2. I have a feeling they are going to try hard to get him involved in the offense moving forward.
Oh and we will now be getting one of our biggest offensive weapons back with Jones.

I really expect the offense to get rolling pretty soon.

Spud Rapids's picture

Last year the Vikings defense was 3rd all time in the red zone.. it reminded me of the NFC championship where they couldn't find the end zone vs. Seattle. That's where I think they need to step the use of Graham

dobber's picture

The offense scored 22 points...but that's still 6.2 better than the average Minnesota's defense allowed a year ago. And it's supposedly better this year.

I suspect we'll see a different defensive beast on turf at their place in November...but it might not be better different.

flackcatcher's picture

Main difference is the swap out of FB for a TE/H back set. NFL pretty much forced it with the way passing and blocking rules are enforced since last year. New England was the first to go three years ago, the most of the league shifted last year. Green Bay may the last team who held on the old two back setup. Otherwise, this is the classic 'west coast' offensive scheme via 2014 updated with the H back rather than the old FB-HB set. With Rodgers under center, it may be the most dangerous and deadly offense in the whole NFL.

Slim11's picture

Jones’ return could be huge. I say “could” purposely.

One, MM will call pass plays first and I expect him to continue going so. His statements notwithstanding, he is quick to abandon the run in just about any situation.

Two, Jones may try to do too much, too soon. This is normal for a young player coming back from time off due to injury, suspension, whatever the reason. He’ll need to be held in check by Philbin, Sirmans and, in part, by AR. I do not want to see him go down to an injury in his first game back.

I actually look forward to his third or fourth game back. I believe those games will be more telling than the Redskins game on Sunday.

croatpackfan's picture

And I expect team will start to function well not before week 4. They just need time and snaps to gel together. This is still preseason for offense and starting D....

Coldworld's picture

I agree with you Cory. We are quick to give Zook stick. We have not been as ready to give credit for what should have been a game winning contribution. Well done Zook and the special teams unit!

On a different note, while I share some of your comments regarding the playbook NP, I think it is worth noting that teams typically like to roll things out gradually to avoid putting everything on tape. I have to believe there is more. For one thing, I believe we must have plans to use Lewis, for example. Time will tell.

CJ Bauckham's picture

I gave him credit for about 30 sec, at which pt we immediately let them return the kickoff to the 40

Tundraboy's picture

That's us. Improvements noted though. We just have a knack or curse for getting momentum and giving it right back.

Johnblood27's picture

I wonder how many teams are salivating at the thought of signing Trevor Davis?

Chicken feathers and chicken salad kind of issue with ST.

GB has no return game at all. Fair catches and touchbacks are the norm in todays game.

Just line up 11 and pressure the punter. It Is Time... to be different. When the rules change (limiting what a return can do to help you) adapt or die. You gotta be different. What is the downside? a few yards versus the occasional blocked kick? I will take pressure and forcing poor technique of a punter and the occasional blocks.

Our KO coverage is mostly pretty good. There was a long return which Im sure was due to pad level, or technique or something that "we will get cleaned up".

GB kicking is at an all-time high with Scott and Crosby. They are both among the best in the league.

Blocking and tackling. That is where improvement can come from. That is what needs to be emphasized. Scheme can come from a solid foundation. Trick plays to follow, fakes and turnover schemes.

Oppy's picture

Trevor Davis is on IR.. and when he's healthy, he constitutes GB's return game.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

Sorry Oppy, not even close on this one. Lucas Patrick constitutes GB’s return game. Soft hands, blazing speed, amazing instincts.

Oppy's picture

Lucas Patrick? Blazing speed?

Edit: Okay, I saw your post below. Whew. I was really confused. :)

Coldworld's picture

Have you never learned to appreciate a good slow burn?

dblbogey's picture

He's been quite durable as well.

Handsback's picture

It seems forever since ST gave Green Bay a victory. Great job Zook! Goes back to getting a top flight punter, kicker and decent coverage. Now if Cobb/Monty/whoever can break a long one it would really be great.
The question is would Slocum have been doing a great job as well if he had the same components? I suspect so. It's always the players.....

Oppy's picture

If it's always the players, coaches would be a dime a dozen- nobody would ever clamor for hiring or firing of coaches.

As it stands, coaching jobs are millions and millions a dozen.

Slim11's picture

IMO, no.

If you know Slocum’s history and how he got into coaching (via his father.), then you realize he is in the “family business.” He’s an overrated coach with family connections more than anything else.

Duke Divine's picture

Slocum resin is finally flushed from the system! Nice to have a GM who understands ST and field position is a big part of the game!! Thanks Gute! It's been too long!

Oppy's picture

Packers hired Ron Zook in 2014. I don't know how much Gutekunst, or even Ted Thompson, had to do with the decision to bring Zook in.

Duke Divine's picture

JK Scott!!!!

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

I’ve been joking about Lucas Patrick as the kick returner on a few posts, but I’m pretty sure this is a bad idea by Zook. In the first half I told everyone in section 118 that if I were the Vikes, I’d pooch kick it to the right side 22 yard line. Then they did just that and I held my breath. Patrick did pretty well, but I would not expect that every time. I would expect other teams to try to exploit this lineup though.

I assume he’s there to lead block, but is it worth the risk?

Oppy's picture

Its not at all unusual to have a few big bodies up front on returns across the NFL.

Doug_In_Sandpoint's picture

But he wasn't up front. He was way back at the 20. He was one of the two men just in front of Ty. MN pooched it to him in the second half.

Oppy's picture

up front as in blocking for the returner.
You might recall the Pats had one of their OL go for a KOR TD vs the Pack during week 15 of our 2010 season. Same sort of thing.

4thand10's picture

I remember that....took a ton of dudes to try to tackle that monster....always wanted to see us try that... along with some face kicks once in a will . With our new punter/ place holder...he’s tall, I’m wondering if he can throw....Thad be a fun play to watch.

dblbogey's picture

You worry too much.

PatrickGB's picture

Sorry Dug, I hate returning kicks. My speed and quickness are gone. I would rather run block.

“Since 62” ;-)

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