The Green Bay Packers appear ready and willing to weather the storm that potentially comes with relying on a rookie kicker. Following the release of Parker White last week, sixth-round pick Anders Carlson is the only kicker now on the 90-man roster, and at least for the time being, it doesn’t look like Mason Crosby will be returning.
Carlson is going to get every opportunity, and then some, to prove that he can be the guy at kicker moving forward.
“If Anders can perform like we think he can and can improve,” said Rich Bisaccia recently, “I think we’re prepared organizationally as well as with a majority of the other draft picks to weather the storm to some degree positionally, and hopefully they can keep improving and get better with time. I think that’s how we’re going to approach the majority of our class and I’d like to think we do that with the majority of young players that we have.”
Carlson had an up-and-down career on the stat sheet during his time at Auburn. During his time there, he hit 71% of his 107 field goal attempts, which included going 25-for-39 from 40-49 yards and only 4-for-16 from over 50 yards. He also dealt with injuries, including tearing his ACL in 2021, which resulted in him kicking with a leg brace during the 2022 campaign, before that season was cut short due to a shoulder injury.
However, what gave Brian Gutekunst and Co. the confidence to select Carlson in the sixth round was Bisaccia’s familiarity with him, along with Bisaccia’s successful track record of working with kickers.
Bisaccia was the special teams coordinator with the Las Vegas Raiders for several seasons from 2018 through 2021, while Daniel Carlson, Anders’ brother, was the kicker there. After being released by the Minnesota Vikings, Carlson has gone on to have a successful career. Since 2018, Carlson has made 89% of his 166 field goal attempts with the Raiders and 83% from 50-plus yards.
In coaching Daniel, Bisaccia got to know Anders by association. He even watched some of Anders’ college film before he was draft eligible, providing him with kicking drills to work on. As part of Green Bay’s pre-draft due diligence, Bisaccia also took a trip to Auburn to meet one-on-one with Carlson.
“The relationship Rich had with him was a positive factor,” said Gutekunst after the draft. “The familiarity there helped. With kickers, Rich has a long track record and a very successful one, and I felt really good about how he felt about him.”
Of course, the Packers’ objective is to win as many games as they can this season. But with Jordan Love taking over at starting quarterback and a number of inexperienced skill position players leading the way, they do find themselves in a transition year. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be successful, but they also aren’t expected to be Super Bowl contenders either.
Along with trying to figure out if Love can be the starting quarterback for the next decade-plus and the young receivers and tight ends gaining valuable experience, the Packers also have the opportunity to do the same at the kicker position with Carlson. While Crosby could provide stability at the position in 2023, that’s a bandaid solution to the problem of not knowing who the team’s next kicker will be, with him nearing the end of his career. When the Packers are potentially in a better position to compete during the 2024 season, what they don’t want to be doing is beginning their search for their next kicker.
As we’ve seen around the NFL, specifically within the NFC North in Minnesota and Chicago, finding a reliable kicker is not an easy task. Lambeau Field also isn’t a very kicker-friendly environment for those not accustomed to kicking in the frigid December and January temperatures.
Without question, there are going to be missed kicks that come with relying heavily on a rookie, but with Carlson’s track record, Bisaccia’s familiarity, and the current state of the Packers roster, the team is willing to ride the roller coaster, with the hope that they find their kicker of the future at the end of the ride.
“I think he’s a strong mental makeup person,” said Bisaccia. “I think he’s been his best regardless of the circumstance. He’s been in a lot of big games, kicked in a lot of situations in the SEC, and kicked in many bowl games.”