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A new face might be handling kickoff duties for the Packers vs the Lions

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By: justis.mosqueda

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Kicker Matt Ammendola was signed to the practice squad in Week 18. There’s a decent chance he’s going to suit up on Sunday Night Football.

On Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers signed kicker Matt Ammendola and tight end Austin Allen to the practice squad during the team’s off day. The signing of Allen should come as no surprise, as the team has consistently churned the tight end position on the practice squad in 2022.

The Packers released tight ends Sal Cannella, Nate Becker and Alize Mack at final cuts and made tight end Shaun Beyer one of their first outside practice squad signings of the season. Beyer was eventually released for Josh Babicz in October, who was released for Nick Guggemos at the end of November. Now Guggemos has new competition in town: a 6’8” rookie by way of Nebraska.

The other signing, though, makes little sense on paper. Practice squad kicker Ramiz Ahmed had a stellar preseason in Green Bay, which has led to him sticking on the practice squad for the entirety of this season. He was called up both in Week 10 and Week 17 as a practice squad elevation but never saw the field. Last week, he was expected to handle kickoff duties but injured his groin in pre-game warmups, which forced veteran Mason Crosby back into the role.

Crosby has been as consistent as you could ask from a placekicker without a massive leg in his 38th year of life, but time has impacted his leg strength. That is more evident on kickoffs than in the placekicking game. In 2022, the Packers only had 23 percent of their kickoffs end in touchbacks, which ranks dead last in the league. For reference, the Detroit Lions — Green Bay’s opponent on Sunday — ranks 16th in the league in that stat with 61 percent of their kickoffs resulting in touchbacks.

The Packers have only used two of Ahmed’s practice squad elevations this year, which means his final elevation of the regular season is still eligible to be used against the Lions this week. If Green Bay wants him to, Ahmed can take kickoffs off of Crosby’s plate versus Detroit.

In the playoffs, there are an unlimited amount of practice squad elevations available, teams are just limited to two call-ups per game. That means that there’s no reason for Green Bay to “save” a callup in Week 18 for Ahmed so that it rolls over in the playoffs. Each individual game, in regard to practice squad call-ups, is a clean slate in the postseason.

So why sign Ammendola? The Packers seem content with Ahmed’s play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushed to become the team’s starting kicker in 2023. If Ahmed’s groin injury is still a problem, then Crosby could handle kickoffs like he has the other 16 games of the season.

The only way this practice squad signing makes sense is if Ammendola has a legitimate shot to play on Sunday, should Ahmed be unavailable, as a kickoff specialist. This wouldn’t be the first time the Packers had their eyes on him, either, as they brought him in on a workout back in August. That was just one week after Ahmed was signed to the training camp roster.

Ammendola entered the league in 2020 via Oklahoma State and began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers. Since then, he’s also been signed by the New York Jets, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and now the Packers. He’s played in 15 games over the last two years, including two a piece with the Cardinals and Chiefs this season.

For his NFL career, Ammendola has kicked 63 kickoffs for 39 touchbacks. That’s a 62 percent mark that would rank just above Detroit’s 16th-ranked spot. In 2022, he’s turned 12 of 16 kickoffs into touchbacks, good for a 75 percent rate. Only five teams in the league have hit that season-long number in 2022.

You rarely see final-week practice squad signings play a well-defined role for a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot, but there’s a decent chance that Ammendola could actually make an impact against the Lions. He hasn’t even been officially assigned a number yet, as of Wednesday morning, but don’t be surprised if you see him in a green Packers jersey on Sunday night.

Originally posted on ACME Packing Company