The Green Bay Packers released receiver/kick returner Jeremy Ross on Monday, one day after his muffed kickoff return put the team in a 14-0 hole at Cincinnati.
No corresponding transaction was announced, and the coaching staff wouldn’t hint at which direction they’d go following the bye week.
“The roster is a constant conversation between the personnel department and myself,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday, a day after a bitter 34-30 loss to the Bengals. “Production, performance is always part of those decisions. We haven't given up on Jeremy. He’s had some opportunities, he’s done some good things for us. But there’s some things we may have to shift as we move forward from a roster standpoint.”
The Packers are averaging 12.1 yards per kickoff return – last in the league by a wide margin. Atlanta is next-to-last with a 17.0-yard average. That’s less than half of the Packers’ 10th-ranked average of 25.0 yards per kickoff return from last season.
Sunday’s mistake was huge. After Cincinnati drove 80 yards for the opening touchdown, Ross botched the return. The Bengals recovered at the 2 and scored on the next play.
“I thought he made a delayed decision to go get the ball and then misplayed the catch,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said.
Along with his miscue against the Bengals, Ross ignored the advice of one of his blockers, John Kuhn, and took a return out of the end zone and was tackled at the 4-yard line against San Francisco.
It was disappointing production after last season. Upon replacing an injured Randall Cobb at the end of last year, Ross averaged 25.8 yards on four punt returns, with a long of 58, and 28.7 yards on three kickoff returns, with a long of 44. There were two major gaffes last year, though: His drop on the Cobb lateral at Chicago and his muffed punt that turned the tide in the playoff loss at San Francisco.
“We had a big play yesterday and that’s two in the last four games,” Slocum said. “Ball security’s the No. 1 thing we do in the return game and we’ve got to play better than that.”
Joe McKnight, who worked out for the Packers before the start of the regular season, is a free agent but is dealing with some legal issues due to traffic violations. He earned some All-Pro accolades in 2011 and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2011 and 2012. Three-time Pro Bowler Josh Cribbs, who is tied for the NFL record with eight career touchdowns on kickoff returns, also is available. In-house candidates would be Cobb and rookies Johnathan Franklin and Micah Hyde. Cobb could do double duty, or the Packers could have Franklin handle kickoffs and Hyde could return punts.
In three games, Ross caught one pass for 8 yards. That was a big one against the Bengals to convert a third-and-8 on the final drive.
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