GREEN BAY, Wis. – As far as major shakeups go, cutting a second-year safety who had been phased out of the defense probably doesn’t qualify.
But that’s about as far as the struggling Green Bay Packers went upon returning Tuesday from their extended time off following last Thursday’s 40-10 loss at the Detroit Lions. They cut Jerron McMillian, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, to make room for veteran running back Kahlil Bell, who agreed to a one-year deal a day earlier.
McMillian lost a training-camp battle with M.D. Jennings for the starting free safety job but then started the first two games at strong safety while Morgan Burnett was out because of a hamstring injury. However, McMillian lost that starting spot even before Burnett returned. Rookie Chris Banjo started in Week 3, and McMillian was reduced to a part-time role as the dime (sixth) defensive back.
By the Packers’ sixth game, McMillian was out of the defensive plans all together. After playing 184 snaps on defense in the first five games, McMillian played just seven defensive snaps in the last seven games. Even McMillian’s role on special teams was reduced. He played just six of 27 special-teams plays against the Lions.
“Any time you have a young player you bring into your program, you obviously have expectations,” coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday. “But this is something that we felt we needed to do from a roster standpoint. I think our roster distribution reflects that, and as far as his individual performance, it just wasn’t quite what it needed to be this year.”
McCarthy wouldn’t commit to any other changes for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, a virtual must-win game if the Packers want to stay in the playoff hunt. He said the newly signed Bell might factor in on special teams right away but wouldn't say if that would be in a kick-return capacity.
McCarthy said the film review of the Lions game did not produce many positive grades. The offense, he said, had none. The defense, other than the four takeaways, also was all negative. He said they had 20 missed tackles on defense and special teams combined.
“We’re staying true to who we are,” McCarthy said. “We study the film. We correct the things that we’ve done [and] maybe get some people healthier. Coming back, there’ll be more competition for playing time in certain packages. So some of that’s going to change, but I’m not going to get into specifics on that.”
While the Packers don’t have to file an official injury report until Wednesday, McCarthy indicated that the knee injury that center Evan Dietrich-Smith sustained in the second quarter against the Lions was not serious. Dietrich-Smith, who did not return to the game, may be able to practice on Wednesday. He also said receiver Randall Cobb, who is eligible to come off the injured reserve/designed to return list next week, has not been cleared to return from his leg injury.