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During PFW's two-day visit to the Packers' training camp this week, there were no players who really separated themselves from the pack.
But as far as coaches go, it was a much different story, as special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, who knows he's under pressure to greatly improve a unit that struggled mightily last season, clearly dominated the proceedings.
Barking out instructions over a loud speaker with great intensity in special-teams drills, which have been intentionally expanded this season, Slocum was clearly a man on a mission.
"The No. 1 advantage with more time being spent on special teams is the opportunity to really review our fundamental work," Slocum told PFW. "We get to see it on tape and make sure we are sharp within our scheme."
Both physically and mentally, the Packers' special teams were far from sharp last season, getting called for an inordinate number of ill-timed penalties, in addition to breaking down way too often.
"On returns, we're putting a lot of emphasis on hand placement inside the front of the body," Slocum said. "We are coaching to make sure we stay within the rules and avoid holding, and that's conducive to playing better and putting your body in a better position to give our returners better options."
Just who the Packers' kick returners will be in Week One remains to be seen, which is also the case at punter, where a spirited battle between Tim Masthay and Australian Rules Football convert Chris Bryan is expected to last deep into the preseason.
If Slocum had his druthers, the starting kickoff returner will be a running back.
"The way our kickoff operation is set up, a running back has the perfect body type for the job because they're so used to taking hits and maintaining their balance running through crowds.
"It's different for the punt returner, where the main thing is to catch the ball, get off the initial spot and avoid contact and make things happen in the open field."
Most sources on the scene believe Will Blackmon, who is coming off a knee injury that required reconstructive surgery last October, is the best bet to regain the starting PR job. RB Brandon Jackson looks like the early leader in the KR competition.
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