The Green Bay Packers (5-6-1) released second-year safety Jerron McMillian on Tuesday after the team signed veteran running back Kahlil Bell. McMillian, a fourth-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, has mightily struggled in 2013 and there was no better way to cap off a disastrous sophomore campaign than with a release from the Packers.
As a rookie, the 5-foot-11, 203 pound McMillian showed flashes of what he could have been able to bring to Green Bay. The Packers’ defensive secondary has been widely regarded as one of the worst tackling units in all of the NFL, but McMillian showed the ability in college to be physical and lay a boom on opposing receivers.
In 2012, McMillian registered 27 total tackles and intercepted one pass, but his production was often overshadowed by fellow rookie defensive back Casey Hayward, who led all NFL rookies with six interceptions.
In training camp and in the early part of the 2013 season, McMillian had a prime opportunity to seal a starting safety job. With veteran and defensive quarterback Morgan Burnett out with a hamstring injury, McMillian started alongside M.D. Jennings in the secondary.
When Burnett returned though, McMillian lost his starting job and served as a dime-back (sixth defensive back) on the Packers’ defense. After lowlight reel and colossal on-field mistakes, McMillian lost his dime-back duties in favor of Hayward, who returned from his own hamstring injury earlier in the year and rookie Chris Banjo.
McMillian losing playing time wasn’t a matter of Hayward and Banjo’s production, but McMillian’s incredible downfall from year one to year two.
Recently, the Packers activated second-year safety Sean Richardson to the 53-man roster. With Burnett, Jennings, Banjo, Richardson and McMillian, it was only a matter of time until the Packers were going to release at least one of those five players.
The Packers decided to keep Richardson, a former undrafted free agent, over McMillian. It wasn’t necessarily a sign of Richardson’s growth, but the fact that McMillian lost a special teams job to a fellow young safety who was part of the same draft class in 2012.
McMillian was clearly the worst defensive back in arguably the NFL’s worst defensive secondary. This season, Green Bay’s defense has allowed 251 passing yards per game (22nd in NFL), intercepted six passes (t-2nd worst), and have allowed opposing quarterback to accumulate a 99.1 passer rating (27th).
McMillian is likely the first of many changes the Packers will make moving towards the 2014 season. It wasn’t a matter of if McMillian was going to be released, but a matter of when. Change will be great for the Green Bay defense, because it honestly can’t get much worse from here on out.