Darrius Shepherd was a tremendous story coming out of college and into the NFL in 2019. He came to the Green Bay Packers’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis and earned himself a contract. He then shockingly made the team’s opening-week roster, getting some sparse playing time on offense and contributing a bit on returns as a rookie before being released and returning to the team’s practice squad.
Shepherd has played 14 games for the Packers over the past two seasons, and the story is a great one for him personally. However, his performances on the field during the regular season have made Packers fans feel sick, and now the team has officially decided to part ways with the former North Dakota State Bison.
On Tuesday morning, multiple beat writers reported that the team is releasing Shepherd. This transaction comes on the heels of the team signing receiver/return man Tavon Austin on Monday, a move that effectively robs Shepherd of any role on the team.
Shepherd had actually played a quarter of the team’s offensive snaps or more in five games this season, earning playing time when the Packers were missing wideouts like Allen Lazard and/or Davante Adams to injury. However, he caught just six passes all season for 47 yards. Likewise, his only major special teams role was as the team’s backup return man, filling in for an injured Tyler Ervin for multiple stretches this season.
However, Shepherd’s tenure with the Packers will be defined far more by costly mistakes than by his rags-to-riches story. In 2019, his defining game came in week six against the Detroit Lions, when he lost a fumble on a punt return and had a failed catch that bounced off his facemask lead directly to an interception. This season, he lost a crucial fumble with the Packers tied early in the fourth quarter against the Colts, leading to a field goal that gave Indianapolis the lead. As a result, the Packers benched Shepherd on kickoffs in favor of Malik Taylor for their most recent game, and now he is headed off the roster entirely.
Fundamentally, these mistakes, a lack of production in any capacity, and the addition of a much more explosive athlete in Austin all doomed Shepherd. Expect Austin to man the return spots if Ervin cannot return in time for the week 13 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Furthermore, with the Packers’ receiving corps now at full strength following Lazard’s return from injury, there was no path forward for Shepherd to see the field in any phase.
The Packers’ roster will remain at 51 players once the Austin and Shepherd moves become official.