Shawn Slocum’s job security
Jayme Snowden, Packers contributor
Shawn Slocum.Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Between Mason Crosby’s struggles last year, the lack of finding a kickoff returner to replace Randall Cobb and continuing to give up big returns, the chants to fire the Packers' special teams coordinator have been continual over the past years.
One website boasts “The Official FIRE Shawn Slocum” thread, which was started in 2006 when Slocum was a special teams assistant.
Another website has “For the Love of God, Fire Shawn Slocum” thread that was popular in 2010 and led a Facebook group.
After Vikings opened up Sunday night’s game with a 109 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the chants began once again.
But are the calls for Slocum to lose his job based on emotion, the eye test, or stats?
The Packers injury woes over the past couple years are well documented.
The discussions for much of this season have been: how will the offense find production without key players or who will play outside linebacker as player after player misses games?
For those issues, younger players have stepped up and made what should have been a rocky transition relatively smooth.
However, these players often come from the special teams and when they are promoted, the special teams production suffers.
In the Packers season opener versus San Francisco, Jarrett Boykin and Jamari Lattimore played 68% and 88% of special team snaps respectively; neither was on the field for a special teams play on Sunday night in Minnesota.
Four of the players who were on special teams on Sunday were either not active or not on the team week one, that is a quarter of the unit.
In 2012, a total of 34 different Packers played on special teams. Through 7 games in 2013, the Packers have already seen 32 players take the field on special teams.
Slocum and his coaching staff are working with new players on a weekly basis, often players who are new to the team and special teams.
Slocum’s job, in some ways, is more difficult than his offensive and defensive counterparts.
Working with journeymen type players as fill-ins, players with less experience and less big names, his unit is expected to not miss a beat during these transitions.
So when the Vikings ran back the opening kickoff, I initially understood. First play, new unit, there will be mistakes.
Giving up points is never okay, but I rationalized it. Shaky unit, difficult time, it would get better.
But is that the case?
Through 7 games, the Packers special teams units have already missed 11 tackles, according to ProFootballFocus.
That’s the same number of tackles that were missed all of last season on special teams.
Through 7 games, the Packers have allowed 808 yards in kick returns which is listed as a 32.3 yard per return average. That averages to 115 yards a game.
It appears that the Packers special teams are giving their opponents more than the length of the field every game!
Even when you take away the massive kick returning day that the Vikings had – racking up 247 yards – Sunday night, the Packers gave up an average of 93.5 yards on kick returns in their first 6 games.
Throughout the entire 2012 the Packers opponents gained 1193 total kick return yards, with a 23.4 yard per kick average.
That comes out to 74.5 yards per game, well under what the Packers are giving up now and nearly 10 yards fewer per return.
Comparatively, the Packers have gained only 183 yards on kick returns.
While the Packers offense is scoring more than their opponents – 212 points to 158, meaning that the Packers will kick off more than their opponents, the Packers are only gaining an average of 15.3 yards per return.
The Packers are giving up 32 yards per return and only getting 15.
That isn’t an earmark of a strong special teams unit.
By nature I am a wait and see kind of person, and am no way calling for Slocum to lose his job, but the next couple of games will be interesting.
Slocum has a tough job, but to get these players to perform is his job.
No one gives excuses.
As injured players return and the younger players become more experienced, we will see how quickly Slocum can coach this unit up.
If he wants to keep the “Fire Shawn Slocum” chants at bay, and have continued job security, he will have to do it.
Read more from Jayme Snowden (@jaymelee1 on Twitter) at cheeseheadtv.com. She also co-hosts Cheesehead Radio at Packerstalk.com.