The Packers have been looking to upgrade their special teams unit as the season winds down. Maurice Drayton’s unit could soon be getting an added boost on kickoff and punt returns by scouting out other practice squads and the free-agent market to look for options. A talking point for the franchise all year long in 2021. Rookie Amari Rodgers has often looked indecisive when fielding kicks.
The primary return man on punts for Green Bay this season, the third-round pick has averaged 7.5 yards per runback, ranking him 12th among qualified, eligible players. However, there have been multiple times where the longtime Clemson Tiger has failed to field the ball cleanly or let it go over his head to be downed inside the ten yard line by the opponent. This has put Aaron Rodgers and company in backed-up situations or given the ball back to the opposition with a short field to work with.
The same story on kickoffs, Malik Taylor has not provided the unit with any juice as the leading return man. He has averaged just 19.4 yards, ranking him 69th out of 100 players. Highlighted by a fumble out of bounds against the Chicago Bears, the duo has left Green Bay fans holding their breaths throughout the season.
Without both players for the next stretch of time, the Packers placed on the injured reserve list on Friday with a shoulder ailment. This will keep the 26-year-old out for the remainder of the regular season. Furthermore, Rodgers was placed on the reserve COVID-19 list. As part of a chunk of players that were added into the protocols, he will miss at least Sunday’s crucial game against the Minnesota Vikings.
The group has already using starters to help out their embattled special team’s unit. Options are present on the roster to use at both returner spots. The team lists Slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan as the 2nd option at both positions. Furthermore, third-string running back Patrick Taylor and Aaron Jones both have experience catching kicks.
Special Teams Star in the CFL
However, with the Packer’s injury list already beginning to pile up and postseason play looming around the corner, DeVonte Dedmon would provide the group with another option. A four-year player at William & Mary, he finished as one of the best receivers in school history. This was after earning multiple all-conference honors. He ranks fifth in the program’s history in kick return yards (1,364) and sixth in all-purpose yards (3,825).
After going undrafted, Dedmon ultimately landed with the Ottawa Redblacks in the Canadian Football League. He appeared in five games for the team during his first season in 2019. The Williamsburg, Virginia native racked up 881 yards on punt and kickoff returns. This included a 95 yard and a 111-yard runback in a victory over the Montreal Alouettes.
He picked up right where he left off in 2021 after the cancellation of the CFL season in 2020. The 5’10 200-pound wideout returned 48 punts for 737 yards and two touchdowns. Furthermore, he also returned 49 kickoffs for 1223 yards. This led him to earn the John Agro Award as the league’s top special teams player.
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