Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/30/13
Years from now, the NFL might eliminate the kickoff entirely. Seven games into the 2013 season, the Green Bay Packers are apparently off to a head start. The Packers rank dead last league wide at only 15.3 yards per kick return. So this week, expect the Packers to make a change. After seeing cornerback Micah Hyde combust for a 93-yard punt return, the Packers gave him a shot in their 44-31 win Sunday against Minnesota. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum made it clear Monday the Packers need a spark on kick returns. There's a good chance Hyde, or someone else, will replace Johnathan Franklin this week. "We've been not really effective there through the whole first part of the season," Slocum said. "I think it's time we start generating some production in that area." When asked if that means rotating in new players, Slocum said "it means whoever's out there getting the job done." Since Jeremy Ross' release, Franklin hasn't done that. The rookie running back has 60 yards on three returns. "We will evaluate it as we go through this week," Slocum said. "Each game is a new game. Each week presents a new set of circumstances. It'll be important that we make good decisions heading into it practicing and being effective in the game." Hyde would figure to be next in line. He probably took everyone on the Packers' sideline by surprise with his stride and acceleration Sunday night. And on his punt returns, the 6-foot, 197-pounder has proved he can get north-south without hesitation. He's averaging 18.6 yards per punt return — well above Green Bay's average on kicks. Other options could be cornerback James Nixon or, if really pressed, Sam Shields is an option. As a rookie in 2010, Shields averaged 21.5 yards per return. On the practice squad, running back Michael Hill is another possibility. Sunday night, Franklin nearly had a costly blunder. After the Vikings cut Green Bay's lead to 24-17 with a few seconds left in the first half, Franklin cradled the kickoff 5 yards deep, took it out, hesitated, stepped back into the end zone, slipped and then finished a clumsy 16-yard return. More Lattimore: One injury, one absence that has gone practically unnoticed on Sundays is Brad Jones. Given a chance on defense, Jamari Lattimore hasn't disappointed. In Green Bay's 44-31 win Sunday night, the inside linebacker had three tackles and a sack through Minnesota's brief 19 minutes of offense. On his sack, the third-year pro cruised past guard Brandon Fusco and tracked down Christian Ponder from behind. Against the run, he continued to hold his own. Of A.J. Hawk, Lattimore and Jones — all healthy — the agile Jones might be the best in coverage as the dime linebacker. But through these last three games, Lattimore proved his worth against the run. He might be difficult to pull on early downs. "Brad's still going through his injury situation," coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "I'm hopeful that he can get back this week. That'd be great. Once again, I answer this question all the time. We play with more than 11 guys on offense, defense and special teams. It would be great to have them all back. I'm looking forward to being in that situation." Since Jones suffered his hamstring injury against Detroit, Lattimore has helped Green Bay shut down Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and Adrian Peterson. The 2012 league MVP was rarely able to bounce runs into open space Sunday night. It wouldn't be a surprise if the former undrafted defensive end from Middle Tennessee State continued to play, in some role, once Jones returns. "We've liked the way he's played," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "We've been through this before, last year, a couple times. But Jamari has stepped up and played. I think you've seen his athletic ability show up. And so we just think that he's done a nice job in the games that he's been in there. What that does, once we get back and healthy, you have more people that you feel comfortable being able to put on the field. "And then if a guy's a productive player, you're always going to work to find your best combination of people to get them out there."
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