Packers Camp Insider: Trevor Davis stakes claim to punt-return job
Two full seasons have passed since the Green Bay Packers had a punt return touchdown, and the last player to do so now plays for the Buffalo Bills. Defensive back Micah Hyde returned two punts for touchdowns in 2014, but the Packers have been stymied ever since. Thursday night, however, offered a glimmer of why that might change in 2017. Wide receiver Trevor Davis trotted onto the field early in the second quarter to field the game’s first punt by Donnie Jones of the Philadelphia Eagles. He caught the ball in the middle of the field and burst forward to break the first wave of pressure. When he wiggled his way out to the right, Davis saw nothing but open space in front of him. He took off down the right sideline and reached the end zone for a 68-yard score. The play might go down as a significant tipping point in the punt return competition. In addition to Davis, wide receiver Randall Cobb publicly campaigned for the spot during interviews with the media. But even though Cobb wants the job, coach Mike McCarthy and his staff are most likely hoping for Davis to win it. The fewer snaps Cobb takes on special teams, the better chance he has to stay healthy. Davis finished the night with two returns totaling 94 yards. He added a 26-yard return early in the third quarter.
Despite all the time McCarthy and his staff dedicate to tackling — drills tackling donuts, drills tackling humans, drills diving onto mats — the Packers left plenty to be desired in their first practical application against the Eagles. Safety Morgan Burnett, outside linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Kentrell Brice all missed tackles in the first quarter alone. Matthews had quarterback Carson Wentz seemingly in his hands for an easy sack, but Wentz spun and turned the play into a 38-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mack Hollins, who stiff-armed rookie corner Kevin King to the ground along the way. There were additional missed tackles by Brice (again), King (again), inside linebacker Joe Thomas, cornerback Josh Hawkins and inside linebacker Jordan Tripp. Collectively, it was a performance that left much to be desired and much to be fixed before next week’s game against Washington.
The Packers had several new injuries Thursday. Wide receiver Malachi Dupre took a vicious hit from safety Tre Sullivan and was taken off the field on a backboard and stretcher. The stadium was silent for several minutes as the medical staff attended to him on the field. Dupre had feeling and movement in all his extremities, according to the Packers, and was taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
In addition, cornerback Damarious Randall suffered a concussion after a tough collision in the first quarter. Center Don Barclay suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter. Safety Kentrell Brice injured his finger in the second quarter. Cornerback Raysean Pringle was evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter.
A handful of Packers did not dress for the game. Wide receiver Colby Pearson (ankle), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (healthy scratch), cornerback Davon House (hamstring), cornerback Demetri Goodson (knee), outside linebacker Vince Biegel (foot), tight end Richard Rodgers (finger), tight end Beau Sandland (knee), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (healthy scratch) and defensive tackle Montravius Adams (foot) all did not play.
Bits and pieces
» Thursday night was important for Ty Montgomery, who spent the offseason sculpting his body for a full year at running back. Montgomery had fumbled twice in training camp entering the first exhibition game, but running backs coach Ben Sirmans said ball security was not a concern. However, Montgomery fumbled on his second carry against the Eagles and had an unimpressive showing. He carried three times for 0 yards and had one reception for 8 yards.
» Inside linebacker Joe Thomas made the defense’s first splash play of the season when he intercepted quarterback Matt McGloin in the second quarter. McGloin threw a wildly inaccurate pass to running back Donnel Pumphrey over the middle of the field, and Thomas was right there for an easy interception. A 30-yard return by Thomas set the Packers up with great field position and translated to a 39-yard field goal by kicker Mason Crosby.
» Cornerbacks LaDarius Gunter and Kevin King both forced fumbles in the first half. Gunter popped the ball free from tight end Trey Burton and recovered the ball. King knocked the ball away from tight end Billy Brown after a short catch along the sideline.
Quote of the day
Coach Mike McCarthy on the punt return touchdown by Davis: “You could see Trevor, he was coming on last year, very natural in the punt return. I thought our guys did a great job creating a wall for him. It was well blocked an an excellent return.”
The Packers’ next practice is set for 12:15 p.m. Tuesday at Ray Nitschke Field.