Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby responded to preseason scrutiny with the finest overall season of his career in 2013.
During the 2013 campaign, Packers kicker Mason Crosby connected on 33 of 37 field-goal attempts, with a long of 57 yards.
Pat Lovell / USA TODAY Sports
By Paul ImigFOX Sports Wisconsin
FOX Sports Wisconsin's Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Season stats: 17 games; 33-for-37 on field-goal attempts (89.2 percent), long of 57 yards (twice); 42-for-42 on extra points; 57 kickoffs, 13 touchbacks
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 9.0 (ranked No. 31 out of 38 qualified NFL kickers)
Best game: Week 5 win vs. Detroit (5-for-5 on field-goal attempts, long of 52 yards; 2.0 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 10 loss vs. Philadelphia (2-for-4 on field-goal attempts, misses from 53 yards and 42 yards; minus-0.3 PFF rating)
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium
Expectations were ... Exceeded
Looking live: No player on the Green Bay Packers roster was under as much scrutiny entering the 2013 season as Mason Crosby. He was the NFL's least-accurate field goal kicker the year before and, even at his best, was not among the league's 10 best kickers throughout his first six NFL seasons. Despite that, the Packers didn't draft a kicker to compete with Crosby in training camp. Green Bay did, however, sign Giorgio Tavecchio to give Crosby a run for his job. Every field-goal attempt by Crosby throughout training camp was under the watchful eye of everyone in attendance: coaches, the front office, players, media and fans. It seemed that if Tavecchio slightly outperformed Crosby that the incumbent would still get to keep his spot. More than anything, the Packers wanted to push Crosby as hard as they could and see how he'd respond. At times, that went horribly for Crosby. During the Family Night scrimmage, Crosby made only 3 of 8 field-goal attempts, getting booed loudly by the Lambeau Field crowd. Paying only $10 for a ticket doesn't mean fans are just happy-go-lucky about whatever happens on the field, apparently. But, late in training camp, Crosby got on what was perhaps a career-saving roll. He connected on 24-of-25 field-goal attempts and put to rest any question that Tavecchio or Zachary Ramirez would unseat him. Crosby still had to take a drastic pay cut, though, slicing his guaranteed salary in 2013 from $2.4 million down to $800,000, with incentives to possibly making it all back.
Upon further review: Crosby responded incredibly well to the adversity. He made the first 10 field-goal attempts of the regular season, carrying over the positive work he had put in to conclude training camp. By season's end, he had completed the best year of his career, making 89.2 percent of his field-goal attempts. Compared to his 63.6 percent mark from 2012, this was a drastically different version of the kicker that the Packers clearly wanted to succeed. Crosby has never been very accurate from beyond 50 yards (14 for 33 in his first six NFL seasons), but he was even good from that distance in 2013, hitting 5 of 7. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum noted at the end of the season that he could tell Crosby had overcome his 2012 difficulties late in training camp. When Slocum saw Crosby knocking down all but one of the 25 field-goal attempts with the job on the line, that was all the convincing that the coaching staff needed. This career-best year also earned Crosby his full original $2.4 million salary, as he had completed all of the incentive-based objectives. Crosby wasn't responsible for kickoffs early in the season, with punter Tim Masthay temporarily assuming that role. It's certainly possible that that benefitted Crosby, but it could also just be coincidental. When he took back kickoff duties in Week 8, Crosby showed that he was a better directional kicker than Masthay but didn't have as much leg strength.
Overall 2013 grade: B
Status for 2014: Ninety percent chance of being on the Packers' active roster to begin the 2014 regular season. One good season from Crosby won't get him entirely off the hook. The competition in training camp seemed to be good for him, so expect Green Bay to do it again. However, there's a big difference between using a draft pick on a kicker and just signing someone off the street like the Packers did in 2013 with Tavecchio and Ramirez. If Green Bay elects to draft a kicker, it'd be very unlikely that Crosby sticks around. Though drafting a kicker seemed like a real possibility in 2013, it's not nearly as likely in 2014, so Crosby is probably safe in that regard. At age 29, if Crosby's major struggles are behind him, he could end up kicking for the Packers for an entire decade (that would mean making it through the 2016 season). But with his problems not that long ago, Green Bay's coaching staff and front office will be keeping a much closer eye on him.