22

August

Micah Hyde and Jeremy Ross Battling For a Roster Spot?

Micah Hyde Training Camp

Is Packers CB Micah Hyde pushing WR Jeremy Ross out of a roster spot?

Green Bay Packers rookie cornerback Micah Hyde and second-year wide receiver Jeremy Ross could be battling for the same roster spot, despite holding two different positions on two different units. The one thing they do have in common, however, is that they’re both getting looks as punt returners on special teams. In fact, according to JSOnline’s Wednesday camp report, both Hyde and Ross will be returning “most if not all the punts against Seattle.”

Micah Hyde has been making a lot of splashes this preseason. He has taken full advantage of the injuries to Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward by making the most of his reps during practice and exhibition games. While he has a couple things to refine in coverage, he has shown great things as a blitzing defensive back. Overall, his praise has been well-earned. ProFootballFocus.com (PFF) even highlighted his performance against the St. Louis Rams last week: “Leading that group (of young corners), in spite of being involved in Chris Givens’ 57 yard reception, was 5th round pick Micah Hyde (+2.4) who outside of that catch surrendered only six yards on five targets. He also broke up two passes and registered four stops including a sack.”

As a punt returner, Hyde has had only a few opportunities to make an impact; however, his 13-yard (and only) return against the Rams was the longest by a Packers player so far this preseason. Head coach Mike McCarthy likes his ability to field balls, too. According to Rob Demovsky at ESPN’s NFC North Blog, McCarthy recalled a drill from rookie orientation camp: “Just to see (Hyde’s) ability to catch the ball on the run and do different things, hell, I was tempted to put him on offense. I think he has that type of ball-skill ability.”

With the cornerback group as deep as it is with Williams, Shields, House, and Hayward, it might take some extra duties for Hyde to really lock down a significant role on the roster.

Then there’s Jeremy Ross. Not too long ago, I wrote about Ross’ problems with ball security, but since that time there have been few reports about dropped catches. After Jonathan Franklin’s failure to field the third-quarter punt against St. Louis that resulted in a turnover (according to special teams coach Shawn Slocum), Ross has one fewer competitor to take the main job.

14

August

Jeremy Ross’ Hands Will Be His Undoing

Jeremy Ross, Training Camp DrillIn the grand scheme of the game, it might not have been the significant difference between a win and a loss, but it’s a moment Green Bay Packers fans won’t soon forget, no matter how hard they try to repress the memories.

Mike McCarthy won’t soon forget it, either. His decision to have rookie wide receiver Jeremy Ross return punts in the playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers backfired in the worst way possible. With the Packers up 14-7 and building some momentum, they managed to stop the 49ers offense at midfield to begin the second quarter. Unfortunately, the ensuing punt was muffed by Ross at the Packers’ 10-yard line, and Colin Kaepernick hit Michael Crabtree for a touchdown three plays later. The game was now tied, and all the momentum had shifted.

Make no mistake, Jeremy Ross could be an exceptional return man – maybe even better than Randall Cobb. He has the right combination of vision, speed, and elusiveness that can create substantial returns. The one ingredient that is missing, however, is ball security. And all things considered, it’s perhaps the most important ingredient. Teams can recover from poor field position, but it’s ten times harder to recover from a turnover.

Fast-forward to training camp, and Ross hasn’t shown any improvement in being able to field punts or make catches. He’s been given multiple reps as a returner, and it’s no secret that McCarthy would prefer him to be “the man” at that position. The head coach’s decision to put Ross into the Divisional Round game was, in large part, due to his desire to keep star wide receiver Cobb from unnecessary injury, and that desire hasn’t changed much. If the Packers can have a back-up wide receiver fielding punts and kickoffs, it reduces the risk of them losing a key player in the part of the game where injuries occur most often.

But so far, Jeremy Ross hasn’t done much to help the situation.

As training camp reports from the beat writers come out, we’ve seen some all-too-frequent accounts of muffed punts and dropped passes from Ross. JSOnline’s notes from Tuesday’s practice mention another pair of dropped passes by Ross, which adds to a growing list. Dropped passes obviously aren’t the same as muffed punts, and the mechanics of each type of catch are completely different; nevertheless, they both show a propensity for poor ball security. But even besides that, if he wants to make the 53-man roster, Ross will still need to show he’s valuable as both a wide receiver and a punt returner.

12

April

Packers Prospect Profile — WR Jeremy Ross, University of California, Berkeley

1) Profile:

Jeremy Spencer Ross

College: California (University of California, Berkeley)

Position: WR, KR, PR

Height: 6′0″   Weight: 203 lbs.

Born: March 16, 1988 From: Sacramento, CA

2) High School / College Highlights: A dual threat in high school as both a rusher and a receiver, Ross was an All-State selection and Delta League MVP with 964 yards on 99 carries and 718 yards on 45 catches.  Committed to Cal in 2006 but spent the year redshirted and shared offensive scout team player of the year.

In 2007 played in 7 games mostly on special teams but not as a returner.  In 2008 started 5 games and played in all 13 games, mostly as a returner and wide receiver.   In 2009 he came into his own: he was 3rd on the team for all purpose yards and posted a 21.3 yard per punt return average, which would have been a Pac-10 and Cal record had he had enough attempts.  In 2010 he lead Cal in punt return average and was rated as the 5th best draft eligible punt returner.

3) College Stats: 31 games, 57 catches/764 yards/3 TDs, 42 kickoff returns/851 yards/0 TDs, 31 punt returns/471 yards/1 TD

4) NFL Combine Results: Not invited.  Cal pro-day:  4.39 40-yard dash, 4.24 short shuttle, 7.19 3-cone drill, 9’9” broad jump, 39” vertical, 22 bench.

5) Strengths/Weaknesses: A multi-threat player; Ross is a dangerous return man, averaging 20.3 yards per kickoff and 19.07 yards per punt return (18th in the nation).  Also factors in as a wide receiver; at Cal Ross stretched the field as an outside wide receiver but also has the versatility to play in the slot.  Ross was also sometimes used as a runner, most notably on wide receiver reverses such as in his touchdown against Arizona State University.

Ross has deceptive speed for a player of his size and height; his 4.39 40-yard dash time would have tied him for 3rd fastest among wide receivers with Julio Jones at the NFL combine.  Ross also is very strong as he holds several Cal all time records for conditioning for his position, he can push the pile and is hard to take down, his 22 bench press results are impressive for a wide receiver and again would have placed him 3rd at the NFL combine among wide receivers.