Nathaniel Hackett is reuniting in Denver with one of the young wide receivers that worked with him during his time as Green Bay’s offensive coordinator.
According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for August 4, the Broncos have signed former Packers receiver/returner Darrius Shepherd to their 90-man roster for training camp, adding more wideout depth one day after placing starter Tim Patrick on injured reserve with a season-ending ACL tear. The Broncos have also announced the move.
Shepherd, 26, will look to see if a familiar offensive coach can help him reignite his NFL career after spending the former UDFA spent his spring with the New Jersey Generals in the USFL. He started six of his eight games for the Generals and caught 27 passes for 323 yards and a touchdown, giving him a little bit of recent experience to help him in his pursuit of an active-roster spot with the Broncos.
The Broncos still have a solid pair of starters in Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy at the receiver spot and will likely look for 2020 second-round pick KJ Hamler to step in Patrick’s absence, but the strongest depth behind them is a rookie fifth-rounder (Montrell Washington) and Kendall Hinton, who has 15 career receptions. If Shepherd can utilize his history with Hackett to get a jump start, he might be able to contend for a place on the 53-man roster.
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Shepherd Fizzled Out With Packers
Shepherd got his NFL start with the Packers in 2019 after being invited to their rookie minicamp and impressing enough to make their offseason roster for OTAs and training camp. While he made the active roster heading into the regular season, he was demoted to the practice squad after eight games and a few costly mistakes, including one blunder where a pass went through his hands, hit his helmet and was picked off.
The following year, Shepherd was relegated to the practice squad again after camp but earned a promotion to the active roster within the first month of the season, giving himself a shot at redemption at a time when the team needed a receiving boost. In eight performances, though, he caught just five passes for 46 yards and one first down and averaged 20.6 yards on 11 kickoff returns. The Packers eventually replaced him with Tavon Austin on the active roster and never looked back.
Since then, Shepherd has floated between short practice-squad stints with several teams, including the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers, but he has yet to play a regular-season snap for another team. He does, however, have recent experience in the USFL, and that’s not for nothing considering he finished the season with the fourth-best receiving percentage (69.2%).
Packers Interested in Adding Another RB
The Packers don’t have much use for additional receiving depth at the moment, but adding another running back could easily be in the cards considering there are only four of them currently participating in team drills at practice. Patrick Taylor has missed two consecutive practices with an injury and Kylin Hill is still recovering from last year’s ACL tear, leaving them with undrafted rookies Tyler Goodson and BJ Baylor as their only alternates for the primary duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon.
“That’s something that Gutey (general manager Brian Gutekunst) and I have talked about and certainly we don’t want to go into the first preseason game with two backs,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said prior to practice on August 4. “I doubt you’ll see Aaron Jones or AJ in that first preseason game, so we’ll see where we’re at as it gets a little bit closer.”
The Packers are still more than a week away from their preseason opener, but they could be motivated to find an extra back quickly with them set to hold a live practice for Packers Family Night this weekend. If not, they will look to see if Goodson or Baylor can make their moment in the spotlight count.