Packers cut kick returner Tremon Smith, claim Tyler Ervin from Jaguars

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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GREEN BAY - Since trading Trevor Davis to Oakland in mid-September, the Green Bay Packers have struggled mightily to get production from their kick and punt return units. On Monday, general manager Brian Gutekunst attempted to solve the issue with a waiver claim. confirmed the Packers claimed former Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars running back and kick returner Tyler Ervin off waivers. The team released kick returner Tremon Smith, opening up a roster spot for Ervin once he passes his physical.

Ervin was a fourth-round pick by the Texans in 2016 and played there from 2016-18 and spent six games with the Jaguars this season.

Meanwhile, Davis was waived Monday by the Raiders.

Through Sunday, the Packers were tied for 28th in the league in kick returns with a 19.5 average and were far and away last in the league in punt returns with an average of minus-0.9 yards per return. On the year, they have minus-8 punt return yards.

Oct 27, 2019; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Tyler Ervin (24) runs with the ball as New York Jets tight end Daniel Brown (87) defends during the first quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Ervin is 5 feet, 10 inches and 185 pounds, has carried the ball only five times and caught 14 passes in his career. In 25 games with the Texans he averaged 21.1 yards per kick return and 8.3 yards per punt return. This year with the Jaguars he averaged 21.4 yards per kick return and field five punts for nine yards (1.8).

Allison working through drops

Entering the 2019 season, wide receiver Geronimo Allison felt he was poised for a breakout campaign. With Randall Cobb having departed for Dallas, Allison was the second-longest tenured receiver on the team behind Davante Adams. And before a severe abdominal injury ended his 2018 early, he was on pace for an 80-catch season.

Despite offseason excitement over new head coach Matt LaFleur’s offense and opening in a newer role as a slot receiver, things have yet to click for Allison through 12 games. He has 28 catches on 44 targets for just 240 yards, or 8.6 yards per catch, and two touchdowns.

Though the catch total is a career-high, and the touchdown total equals what he produced in two of his previous three seasons, he acknowledged it hasn’t quite yet shaken out how he envisioned.

“I haven’t been having the year that I would have anticipated or expected, but I’ve been satisfied with my effort and being able to help the guys be successful and lead the way,” he said.

Part of his struggles have been four drops and a 63.6% catch rate. The drops tie him with 26 other players for 25th most in the league. Of the 51 players with at least four drops heading into Monday night, only five wide receivers have fewer than Allison’s 28 receptions.

“The drops this year have been one of my biggest focus(es),” the fourth-year wideout said. “What’s been keeping me able to be a great teammate and a reliable teammate is putting it behind me and not dwelling on it and understanding my role, too, in this offense. A lot of my role is moving a lot of these big guys in the blocking schemes and chipping d-ends and getting these backs up to the second level and making sure we can spring them for the long yardage. It’s about just embracing your role.

“This year I’ve been trying to capitalize on a lot of my opportunities but I’ve just been taking the worst end of it. Mentally, I’m still grinding, still being strong. Just trying to be there and make the play when my number’s called.”

Allison said what has helped him has been the ability to exert some frustration on opponents through blocking in the run game, and the fact that quarterback Aaron Rodgers continues to trust him. On Sunday, Rodgers found him with a key 15-yard completion on fourth-and-10 against New York.

“It’s just being strong mentally,” Allison said. “You see guys go through that and kind of beat themselves up. I’ve witnessed that. I understand that. So, I try not to beat myself up. I try and reassure myself and know that I’m going to make that play. And then the other reassurance is that he fires it right back to me. So that’s another reassurance, that he trusts me — like, c’mon, just make the next one and leave the other one behind.

“You let it go and you just keep moving forward. It’s the next play, next game mentality. You handle it in the moment, but right after that it’s ‘what’s next?’ That’s me. That’s my personality. I just try and continue to be me and just keep rolling with it.”

Going for it

On Friday, LaFleur was asked about fourth-down plays, and his thought process for going for it, excluding late-game trail scenarios when the team is trying to make up points in a hurry.

“I think it’s more of a feel thing in the moment and a lot of times you decide that when you get into a situation where maybe it’s, you just made your second-down call and you’re thinking, ‘All right, I’ve got two downs here in this whatever situation it is,’ and then if you get, provided you stay on track and you get into a fourth-and-short, then you go for it.

“But if you get sacked or go backwards on second down or end up in a fourth-and-long, then at that moment in time you decide to punt it.”

He wouldn’t put a yardage limit on fourth down, however, saying that was also part of the gut check when that situation arises.

Two days later at MetLife Stadium, LaFleur went for it on fourth-and-10 from the New York Giants’ 35-yard line after the Giants had pulled to within a touchdown at 17-13 near the end of the third quarter.

 “I just thought we were a little bit out of field goal range for the conditions and a punt wasn’t going to give us too much right there,” LaFleur said Monday. “And I trust our guys.”

LaFleur said he had liked the protection of Rodgers to that point, along with how Rodgers had been moving in the snowy conditions, so he dialed up a play. Though it did fall off schedule, Rodgers found Allison for a 15-yard completion.

“Yeah, I think that was the play of the game,” Rodgers said. “We needed a drive there and I loved the aggressiveness from Matt and I kind of held it, held it and saw G-Mo put his hand up. I was fortunate to get it in a good spot.”

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