One guy out, another one in. The Packers return duties have been a revolving door since the trading of Trevor Davis, and it doesn’t appear that will change any time soon.
On Tuesday, the team announced they will again turn to specialist Tremon Smith who has already appeared in three games for Green Bay in 2019. Smith was resigned from the practice squad and is expected to resume his duties on special teams. Subsequently, the team had to part ways with undrafted free agent Darrius Shepherd.
Shepherd was a long shot to make the roster this summer, however, he stood out enough in the preseason to earn a place on the final 53. Unfortunately, every time his number was called for on meaningful snaps during the regular season, Shepherd was a huge disappointment.
Against the Detroit Lions in week six, Shepherd saw a pass hit him directly in the helmet and result in an interception. That same game, he fumbled away a punt that led to a field goal for the Lions.
Shepherd’s snaps decreased over the next couple of weeks before his role was practically nonexistent Sunday night facing the Kansas City Chiefs. Shepherd did not play a single offensive snap and saw no opportunities for a return on special teams.
Instead, it was Chandon Sullivan returning kickoffs, but there wasn’t any improvement. Sullivan had never returned kicks before this season and his debut was uneventful finishing with 48 yards on three returns for a 16-yard average. Leading up to the game, head coach Matt LaFleur said the return game was a “big concern.”
Before Smith was waived and signed to Green Bay’s practice squad, he averaged a team-high 22.7 yards per return. Surely, the Packers hope for the same if not better.
As a team, Green Bay ranks 25th in the NFL in starting field position following a kickoff. Smith will hopefully provide a boost but the special teams unit will have to pick it up collectively if they want to see drastic improvement.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.