Packers Annual Checkup: K Mason Crosby

Today is the 10th day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Click here for all of Paul’s previous evaluations and come back every day through mid-March for Paul’s in-depth film and statistical analysis. Coming up soon:

Thursday, Feb. 7: DL Mike Daniels
Friday, Feb. 8: C Evan Dietrich-Smith
Saturday, Feb. 9: TE Jermichael Finley
Sunday, Feb. 10: LB Robert Francois
Monday, Feb. 11: RB Ryan Grant
Tuesday, Feb. 12: RB Alex Green


Season stats: 18 games (16 regular season, two postseason); 23 of 35 field goals made, 65.7 percent; two of nine field goals made from 50-plus yards; nine of 12 field goals made from 40-49 yards; 10 of 12 field goals made from closer than 39 yards; 50 of 50 on extra points

Best game: Week 2 win over Chicago (three of three field goals made, including a season-long 54-yarder; 3.1 PFF rating)

Worst game: Week 15 win at Chicago (zero of two field goal made, with misses from 43 and 42 yards; minus-0.6 PFF rating) season rating: 16.6 (No. 22 of 36 among NFL kickers)

Expectations at the start of the season: Medium

Expectations were … Not met

Looking live: This was a rough season for Crosby and by far the worst of his six-year career. Crosby went through a stretch between Weeks 8 and 12 in which he made only four of nine field-goal attempts. But, no matter how many kicks Crosby missed, coach Mike McCarthy continually stick with him. “Mason is our kicker” was a phrase repeated by McCarthy every time he was asked about Crosby’s status. The Packers didn’t have another kicker on the roster in training camp and didn’t bring in anyone else for a tryout during the height of Crosby’s struggles. Crosby made his final four field goals to end the regular season, but that didn’t change his spot in the rankings as the NFL’s least accurate kicker by a substantial margin. The league’s next-worst kicker was San Francisco’s David Akers, and, unlike the Packers, the 49ers decided to sign a second kicker (Billy Cundiff) late in the season. Akers ended up keeping the starting job, but those two playoff-bound teams took drastically different approaches to their issues at kicker. Crosby made both of his field goals in the playoffs, though they were only from 20 and 31 yards.

Upon further review: Crosby’s accuracy issues were clearly the result of a lack of confidence. He has one of the stronger legs in the NFL, which he proves on most kickoffs. Even former Packers kicker Chris Jacke noted that “it was all mental” with Crosby. Like a golfer struggling with his drive, Crosby started drastically hooking or pushing his field goal attempts due to an overswing. Many of his kicks weren’t even close, off by so much that it seemed like they must have been blocked. But they weren’t. He also had several clank off the goalpost. Though Crosby has never been one of the league’s most accurate kickers, he was coming off a 2012 season in which he made a career-high 85.7 percent of his attempts. Going back and watching some of Crosby’s misses again, his body language told the story. After a couple misses, he lowered his head and paused. There was very little evidence to indicate that he would be able to turn it around in a timely manner, and he didn’t. It took more than a month for Crosby to snap out of his slump, which forced McCarthy to adjust his fourth-down play-calling in certain situations.

Overall 2012 grade: D

Status for 2013: 85 percent chance of being the Packers’ No. 1 kicker next season. Crosby signed a five-year, $14.75 million contract in July 2011, and he has three years left on that deal. However, the team has a very important decision to make this offseason in determining whether it can trust Crosby going forward. At Crosby’s absolute best (the 2011 season), he was still only the 10th-most accurate kicker in the NFL. At Crosby’s absolute worst, well, he was the worst kicker in the league. The chance Crosby once again has no competition in training camp is very low. At the very least, general manager Ted Thompson would surely like to see what other kickers are available on a cheap, tryout basis. It’s also possible, though, that the Packers could draft a kicker. In the past, spending a mid- to late-round pick on a kicker hasn’t been viewed as a wise move. But, the success of Minnesota Vikings rookie Blair Walsh (sixth round) and St. Louis Rams rookie Greg “The Leg” Zeurlein (sixth round) have put into perspective just how talented college kickers have become and how much they can help an NFL team right away.

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