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.
Unfortunately, returning punts isn’t the only issue for Ross right now. JSOnline reported that, during Tuesday’s practice, Jarrett Boykin and Tyrone Walker worked alongside James Jones as the top three wide receivers. That’s a negative sign for Ross, who had been lining up as the number three behind Boykin while Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have been out.
In reality, Ross is being slowly pushed out of a roster spot through the combined performances of both Micah Hyde as a punt returner and Tyrone Walker as a wide receiver.
Unless the Packers decide to keep six wide receivers – which they’ve only done once in the past five years – then Ross could find himself on the wrong side of the cuts. Ball security is the one thing he’s had problems with, it’s the one thing Hyde has shown himself capable of, and it’s the most important thing to Mike McCarthy. Special teams has always decided the final few spots on the 53-man roster, so this punt return battle between Hyde and Ross will mean significant things for both of them.
One more thing to keep your eyes on tomorrow.——————Follow @ChadToporski