On Monday, the Green Bay Packers released wide receiver and primary kick-returner Jeremy Ross. The release came one day after the Packers lost a heart-breaker, 34-30, at Paul Brown Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals. Ross muffed the Packers’ opening kick return in the game and the fumble proved to be the absolute last straw for Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson.
The question which now looms at the beginning of the team’s bye week is who should the Packers replace Ross with on the 53-man roster?
Should they sign a veteran free agent like Josh Cribbs to be the primary return man? Should they sign a free agent wide receiver such as Randy Moss, Brandon Lloyd or Laurent Robinson who could make an impact in the passing game and steer attention away from James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson?
Or should they sign a running back like Michael Turner or Tim Hightower to help their ailing offensive backfield? The answer for the Packers is simple: Replace Ross from within with either practice squad players Charles Johnson or Myles White.
The Packers traditionally do not sign marquee free agents during the regular season unless they feel they need to make an immediate short-term boost at a position (a la running back Cedric Benson last season). The Packers’ wide receiver group is one of the best in the NFL, so there is no reason for the team to find help from outside of the organization.
Johnson, one of three players selected by the Packers in the seventh-round of this past April’s NFL Draft, and the undrafted rookie White finally have a great opportunity to kick-start their NFL careers. Johnson is a big target (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) with Nelson-esque size, while White is a tall and thin (6-foot, 182 pounds) wide receiver with speed similar to Cobb.
Johnson would’ve likely made the Packers final roster in August if he hadn’t been injured throughout the majority of training camp. Johnson has serious potential to become a big-play down-field threat as an NFL wide receiver as he had shown in college at Grand Valley State. For the Lakers, Johnson caught 128 passes for 2,229 yards and 31 touchdowns in his final two seasons.
White was impressive in the preseason for the Packers, catching eight passes for 90 yards. In college at Louisiana Tech, White was overshadowed by current San Francisco 49ers rookie wide receiver Quinton Patton but managed to catch 56 passes for 718 yards and six touchdowns in his final season for the Bulldogs.
Johnson and White both have exceptional talent and are qualified to be the Packers’ No.5 wide receiver. There is no pressure on the Packers or both practice squad players if the organization makes this decision, which could prove to pay big dividends in the team’s future.
In the kick-return game, expect Cobb to handle the duties for the short-term in place of Ross. Once the Packers’ defensive secondary gets more healthy, rookie cornerback Micah Hyde should take over the kick-returning duties in place of Cobb. The thought of having Cobb, arguably the Packers’ most dangerous wide receiver, returning kicks scares the crap out of the fans and the organization if he were to suffer some kind of prolonged injury.
The Packers were in a good situation with Ross, but they will be fine without him too as long as they continue executing and progressing through the Packer Way.