GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers’ receiver and returner issues could be solved in one swift move Sunday.
All they need to do is kidnap Trevor Davis and put him in a green and gold uniform.
It won’t be easy because the Oakland Raiders, who acquired Davis from the Packers for a sixth-round pick and will be at Lambeau Field on Sunday, plan to keep him in their organization for a long time.
“This kid has a lot of qualities that we look for,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said in a conference call Wednesday. “It’s hard to coach speed and guys that can return punts and kicks and make stuff happen after the catch. We’re looking at this kid like he’s got a real good future.”
Gruden said the Raiders had been tracking Davis since he left the University of California in 2016 and when Davis had a terrific game against them in an exhibition game in Manitoba this summer, they decided to go ahead and make a deal for him.
It’s still a mystery why the Packers decided to deal Davis, even with his injury history and lack of production as a receiver. When healthy, he was a dynamic returner and was scheduled to return both punts and kickoffs for the Packers this season.
Two years ago, he averaged 22.8 yards per kickoff return and 12.0 yards per punt return, allowing the Packers to finish 15th in the league in the former and second in the latter that season.
Through five games this year, the Packers rank 32nd in punt returns and 28th in kickoff returns.
Things hit rock bottom Sunday in a 23-22 victory over Detroit when rookie Darrius Shepherd fumbled a punt return and averaged just 17.4 yards on five kickoff returns. Shepherd’s longest return of any kind this season is 21 yards.
Despite signing receiver Ryan Grant, the Packers did not release Shepherd and he remains in the mix for the return job. Shepherd had been returning just punts until the Packers cut Tremon Smith last week.
Smith was re-signed to the practice squad Wednesday and would be a candidate to return to the 53-man roster at any point. He returned three kickoffs and averaged 22.7 yards before being released.
“We’ll stick with Darrius,” LaFleur said. “You know we trust him. It’s unfortunate that happened. All you can do is, guess you got to learn from it. He’s a young player. I don’t think you just cut the cord off one mistake. I know he’s disappointed, but I’m sure he’s ready to get back out there
Davis had an immediate impact on the Raiders, taking an end around for a 60-yard touchdown in his first game. He has two carries for 74 yards and a touchdown, four catches for 42 yards and is averaging 28.3 yards per kickoff return and 5.7 yards per punt return.
Against Chicago two weeks ago, he lost a fumble near the goal line.
He has started the past two weeks at receiver because of injury and could be starting again Sunday.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Trevor,” LaFleur said. “I think he’s a great football player. He’s proven that. He’s done some really good things. He shows up on tape in Oakland.
“He had a huge kick return against the Bears, has had a couple of explosive plays as a receiver, as well. So, I’m happy for him that he’s doing well.”
He just won’t be doing it for the Packers.
Hinkle Field under construction
Long-scheduled construction is underway on Clarke Hinkle Field. The natural grass practice surface is being torn up this week as the Packers prepare for the Oakland Raiders. The work forced head coach Matt LaFleur to move his team to Ray Nitschke Field for outdoor work and the Don Hutson Center for indoor preparations.
“We’re installing a new heated field there, so it will be a good upgrade,” LaFleur said of the Hinkle Field construction.
Lazard made an impression
Allen Lazard made plays all through training camp, but he was one of the last players the Packers cut. He did re-sign to the practice squad and was immediately promoted to the 53-man roster, but he was largely used on special teams early and then situationally on offense.
Through five games, he didn’t see a target – although he did have a nice pass block on a long completion to fullback Danny Vitale against Denver.
Then Monday, the second-year player out of Iowa State caught four balls for 65 yards and a score during a fourth-quarter comeback. On Wednesday, LaFleur was asked if Lazard should have seen more action earlier in the season.
“Yeah, I think that’s a fair question, you know,” LaFleur said. “Certainly, he went out there, and he performed really well. Hindsight’s 20-20, but I’m just excited for where he could go. He’s got to now, anybody can do it one time, and that’s what we say. But now you’ve got to do it each and every time. That’s the expectation, and that’s the standard. But, again, he puts in the work, and he does a great job at practice. So I’m excited to see him put together back to back to back, and see where it goes.”