New Packers Coach Puts Pair of Starters on Notice for 2021

Drayton on Scott/Bradley

Getty Mason Crosby #2 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a field goal with JK Scott #6 during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on October 18, 2020 in Tampa, Florida.

Maurice Drayton may only be about a month into his new post as the Green Bay Packers‘ special teams coordinator, but he is no stranger to the struggles that have plagued the unit over the past several seasons — nor is he letting either of the Packers’ underperforming specialists off the hook heading into 2021.

Drayton made clear Tuesday during his first media availability that Packers punter JK Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley both understand “their backs are against the wall” this offseason as they attempt to bounce back from inconsistent outings in 2020.

Aaron Rodgers threw more touchdown passes (48) than Scott ripped punts (46) during last year’s regular season, but the smaller sampling size made his numerous misfires more glaring despite him averaging a career-best 45.5 yards per punt. Bradley, too, was all over the place with some of his poor snaps proving costly for Green Bay.

Here’s what Drayton said when asked about the two starting specialists, who are both entering contract years for the Packers in 2021:

“I call the room where we are the Truth Room, so we’re going to tell the truth. Some things (we’ve talked about) I cannot say here, but they both know that they have to be more consistent in the things that we need them to do to be successful. They have a prescription that we’ve written for them to work on. They also have their own personal, what I call, kick doctors or specialist doctors that they’re working with who I’ve fostered a relationship with. They’re getting better and they will be better, and they understand that their backs are against the wall.”

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Can Drayton Help Fix Scott & Bradley?

Drayton isn’t some newcomer who looked at the numbers and simply developed an opinion on Scott or Bradley. He spent the past three seasons as a top special teams assistant under former coordinators Ron Zook (2018) and Shawn Mennenga (2019-20), getting hired about three months before either specialist was drafted in 2018.

So, when Drayton says “they will be better,” the new Packers coordinator can speak to his experience of watching them develop throughout their entire NFL careers. He also seems to have already put into motion the first phase of his improvement plans for Scott and Bradley, whereas an outside hire may have required more film study to pick up on the flaws and issues of each specialist’s game.

Still, the question remains: Will Drayton have better luck getting more out of Scott and Bradley in 2021?

Scott will at least have a challenger to motivate him. The Packers signed punter Ryan Winslow to a reserve/future contract for the 2021 season after he spent time last year with their practice squad as an emergency option. He has only attempted six punts (44.2 yards per punt) in his young NFL career but has spent each of the last three training camps competing for a roster spot — with Chicago in 2018 and Arizona in ’19 and ’20.

Will Packers Add More Specialists for 2021?

While the Packers have one of the league’s steadiest field-goal kickers in Mason Crosby, they could stand to target another specialist or two this offseason either through free agency or the 2021 NFL draft to improve the overall quality of their special teams unit.

One option could be another long snapper to challenge Bradley in camp, like Scott. They would likely not resort to free agency to secure such a low-priority position, but a late Day 3 pick could add some heat under their current starter’s seat. He is only three years removed from being a seventh-round pick himself.

Another useful piece would be a viable return specialist. Both Tyler Ervin and Tavon Austin are set to become free agents this offseason and would not seem likely to return given their relatively low contributions in 2020. The Packers could find a dynamic new option in their pursuit of new talent at wide receiver, running back and defensive back.

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