FOX Sports Wisconsin’s Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. You can find every report here.
Season stats (playoffs included): 18 games; 34 for 40 on field-goal attempts (85 percent), long of 55 yards; 56 for 58 on extra points; 115 kickoffs, 46 touchbacks (40 percent touchback rate)
ProFootballFocus.com season rating: 0.6 (ranked No. 29 out of 38 qualified NFL kickers)
Best game: NFC championship game loss at Seattle (5 for 5 on field-goal attempts, long of 48 yards; 1.8 PFF rating)
Worst game: Week 13 win vs. New England (4 for 5 on field-goal attempts, missed from 40 yards; minus-3.0 PFF rating)
Expectations at the start of the season: Medium
Expectations were . . . Met
Looking live: After a disastrous 2012 season, Mason Crosby rebounded with the best year of his career in 2013. As the Packers looked ahead to 2014, there weren’t nearly the concerns with their kicker that once existed. There was no more competition from kickers like Giorgio Tavecchio or Zach Ramirez. Crosby was back to getting all of the work without having to look over his shoulder.
Crosby was ranked No. 10 in FOXSportsWisconsin.com’s "Most Important Packers of 2014" pre-training-camp series. I wrote at the time that "Crosby is No. 10 on this list because he needs to consistently be the kicker he was in 2013. He can’t revert back to his 2012 ways, because if he does, the Packers — and Crosby’s career — are in trouble. The team has substantially lengthened the leash on him, but that could be temporary if things go south once again for Crosby."
On the first day of training camp, Crosby connected on 7 of 8 field-goal attempts, missing from 44 yards but hitting twice from 50. He didn’t take live team reps again until the sixth day of training camp, when he again went 7 for 8 (missing from 40 yards, but making attempts from 50 and 53 yards).
Crosby had a night of redemption during the Family Night practice at Lambeau Field. A year earlier, he made just 3 of 8 field-goal attempts and was booed by Packers fans. Crosby’s job seemed in jeopardy at the time. In 2014, however, Crosby made all six of his field-goal attempts from distances of 28, 33, 38, 43, 48 and 50 yards.
"Was anybody holding their breath out there on that field-goal set? I know I wasn’t," Crosby said at the conclusion of Family Night. "I felt good about it. I’ve had two misses in the sessions that we’ve had in practice and I’ve moved on from those really well. They kind of came in the middle and then I kind of re-grouped and made my last three or four kicks every day."
Upon further review: Crosby’s 2014 season wasn’t statistically as good as what he did in 2013, dropping from 89.7 percent on field-goal attempts to 85 percent. However, the Packers gave Crosby some of the worst field-goal protection that any NFL kicker has ever had to deal with.
Crosby had field-goal attempts blocked in Weeks 4, 15 and 17. He also had extra points blocked in Weeks 11 and 14. It’s not a large sample size, but this trend was most prevalent in the second half of the season. It was during that time that Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang were no longer on the protection units while each recovered from injuries. Crosby’s 53-yarder in Buffalo (a game Green Bay lost) was blocked when the score was tied at 10. His 52-yard attempt in Week 17 against Detroit was blocked when the Packers were hanging on to a 21-14 lead.
These blocks were not Crosby’s fault. He was told to continue kicking with the trajectory that he felt was necessary to make those field-goal attempts.
"I just have to continue to kick my ball; I don’t worry about those guys," Crosby said on Dec. 15. "I know they’re going to do their work and they’re detailed with it. I know that they took pride with what they do. For me, I have to trust what I do during the week and what I do in pregame, that when I go out there I keep my head down and hit that ball through. For me, that’s my mindset, trusting those guys, and I have full faith in them every time I go out there."
Crosby’s three non-blocked misses were from 50 yards in Week 11 (Green Bay was up 46-13 on Philadelphia at the time), 40 yards in Week 13 (leading New England 23-14) and 48 yards in Week 16 (ahead of Tampa Bay 7-0).
Crosby struggled a bit with distance on kickoffs this season. His average of 65 yards per kickoff was sixth-worst in the NFL. As a result of that, opponents returned 55.7 percent of Crosby’s kickoffs, which was the seventh-most in the league. Some of the NFL’s stronger-legged kickoff men, such as Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee, kicked the ball an average of seven yards farther each time than Crosby did. In the case of McAfee, that meant having only 28.2 percent of his kickoffs returned.
Overall 2014 grade: B
Status for 2015: One-hundred percent chance of being on the Packers’ active roster to begin the 2015 regular season. Crosby is entering the final year of his contract and will count $3.5 million against the cap in 2015. He’ll turn 31 years old right around the time the 2015 NFL regular season begins. While it’s highly unlikely Green Bay brings in any challengers for him to face off against in training camp this year, could 2015 be Crosby’s final season with the Packers? Consider that a kicker drafted in the sixth round like Minnesota’s Blair Walsh, who’s still on a rookie contract, has cap hits of between $420,000 to $690,000 in the first four years of his career. Walsh will have made less money in his first four seasons (a total of $2.2 million) than Crosby will in 2015 alone. If Green Bay wants to trim approximately $3 million annually in money allotted to its kicker in 2016 and beyond, the financials of such a decision would allow for that.