For now, the Green Bay Packers aren’t making any personnel changes on their return units, including the returner himself, Jeremy Ross.
Despite being 28th in kick return average (12.8-yards per kick) through the first two games of the season, the Packers are sticking with the 25-year-old receiver whose play has been under the microscope since he muffed a punt at the Packers’ 9-yard line in last January’s playoff loss to San Francisco.
Although no other NFL player who’s had more than one kickoff return has a lower yard-per return average than Ross (13.5) going into Sunday’s game against Cincinnati, Packers special-teams coach Shawn Slocum isn’t placing blame on the returner whose name is attached to that low mark.
Ross had only one returnable kickoff in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 38-20 win over Washington, but it went for 14 yards to the Green Bay 17. His long on four attempts this year is only 17 yards.
“We’ve had three plays. Two of them, the ball was kicked away from where we had the play called,” said Slocum, whose kickoff return unit has given the offense an average starting field position of the 13-yard line. “One of them, we missed a block on. The production is unacceptable. We need to have a good week this week and we’ll need to have some productive returns.”
The Packers used Randall Cobb on their final kickoff return later in the fourth quarter, but Slocum said that wasn’t a reflection of Ross but because they were anticipating an onside kick with Cobb still playing a role on the hands unit.
The Packers have utilized Cobb on a situational basis on punt returns – primarily on punts inside the 20-yard line – but Ross has been handling his share of punts fine, according to Slocum.
In fact, his 11-yard return in the first quarter had big play potential.
“I thought the punt return that he had was solid by him, it was close to being a big, explosive play; we’ve got to make that happen,” Slocum said.