Packers Sign Veteran Speedster With Kickoff Return Ability

Getty The Green Bay Packers have some competition now to return kickoffs.

The Green Bay Packers are completely transforming their identity on special teams this season. While things are starting to turn around through the first three weeks, the team is still making moves to try and make the “we-fense” even better.

Bill Huber with reported on Wednesday, September 28 that the Packers signed veteran cornerback Corey Ballentine to the team’s practice squad. While the 26-year-old is listed as a cornerback, his primary role at the NFL level has been returning kickoffs, where he has averaged a solid 24.4 yards per kick return. Huber also points out that Ballentine actually returned a kickoff 73 yards against the Packers during the 2021 preseason.

Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia is trying to find any way to improve his unit, and it’s already starting to show with punter Pat O’Donnell being named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. This move may put some pressure on Amari Rodgers, but Bisaccia is determined to improve the special teams regardless of who it puts pressure on.

Who is Corey Ballentine?

He may not be a household name at the NFL level, but the fact that Ballentine is even playing at the pro level is amazing considering where he started.

Coming out of high school in Tecumseh, Kansas, Ballentine wasn’t even ranked by 247Sports as a recruit in the class of 2014.  He went on to play for the Division II program Washburn, but drew national attention after being named a second-team AFCA All-American by his senior year.

After earning an invite to the Senior Bowl, Ballentine impressed enough scouts that he was taken in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. After being waived by the team halfway through his second NFL season, he spent stints with various teams including the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, and Arizona Cardinals.

Ballentine hasn’t done much on defense since coming into the league, only recording two pass deflections and zero interceptions over his first three seasons. However, his impact has been noticed as a kickoff return specialist, returning 35 kickoffs for 855 yards during his career.

With the Packers emphasizing special teams this year, it makes sense for the team to add a return specialist to their practice squad. This could be in case of emergency, but it could also be in preparation of parting ways with one of the team’s more disappointing recent draft picks.

Is Amari Rodgers on the Hot Seat?

Of all the players potentially on the hot seat right now in Green Bay, no one’s seat is hotter than former third-round pick Amari Rodgers.

Rodgers was taken with the 85th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, with the hope that he could carve out a starting role on the offense as a versatile weapon and a return specialist. Instead, Rodgers struggled to stay on the field on offense, catching just four passes for 45 yards in 2021.

As a returner, Rodgers has looked even worse, consistently making questionable decisions, whether it’s failing to fair catch with opponents in his face or calling for a fair catch with 20 yards of open space.

The second-year player’s future has been called into question after Aaron Rodgers’ passive-aggressive comments about him. If he continues to make questionable decisions as a returner, then the Packers could be ready to cut him in favor of the undrafted Ballentine.

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