No new revelations came out of the Green Bay Packers narrowing their field of candidates for kickoff and punt return duties on Friday..
As expected, those responsibilities will be decided among receiver Randall Cobb, running back Johnathan Franklin and cornerback Micah Hyde after the team parted ways with receiver Jeremy Ross during the bye week.
The Packers added a returner with legitimate credentials earlier this week when Utah rookie Reggie Dunn was signed to the practice squad, but it appears he’ll remain in that capacity until further notice.
Instead, it likely will be the task of the Cobb or Franklin to improve a kickoff return unit that’s dead last in productivity (12.1 yards per return) with Hyde possibly factoring into the punt return situation.
“It will be situational,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re looking at Johnathan Franklin, Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb. It’s a game plan decision based on when and where.”
The Packers have been working to get Cobb off their return unit given his value to the offense, but Ross struggled mightily in the wake of muffing a punt at the team’s 9-yard line last January in San Francisco.
Both Franklin and Hyde have impressed special-teams coach Shawn Slocum with their ball security during practices, but neither has been inserted in a regular-season game yet.
A four-year starting running back, Franklin actually never fielded kickoff or punt returns during his time at UCLA, but took reps there during practices in case of emergency. Meanwhile, Hyde was strictly used on punt returns at Iowa.
Both rookies might be able to provide some relief in one capacity or another as the Packers wait to see what they have in Dunn, a 5-foot-9 rookie who ran a 4.24-second time in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and accumulated 516 yards and four touchdowns on 10 kickoffs during his senior year at Utah.
In the meantime, the key will be ball security after Ross muffed a kickoff against Cincinnati two weeks ago, which ultimately paved the way for his departure.
“I think it’s an opportunity to get a lot more reps,” Hyde said. “I see it as a great opportunity. If you can go out there and catch kicks and catch punts, and make big plays off of it that could really help out the team.”
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