‘Swervin’ Ervin’ Makes Positive Impact on Returns
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Through a dozen games, the Green Bay Packers had minus-8 yards in punt returns. Their two positive punt returns this season had gained a total 4 yards, one of which resulted in a fumble.
Enter Tyler Ervin.
“Swervin’ Ervin. That’s my guy,” running back Aaron Jones said after Sunday’s 20-15 victory over the Washington Redskins.
Ervin, who was claimed off waivers from Jacksonville this week, returned four punts for 51 yards against the Redskins. The first went for 10 yards and immediately put the Packers into positive figures for the season. That wound up being his worst return of the day. With all four returns going for 10-plus yards, including an 18-yarder, Ervin provided a lot more than a spark.
He provided field position. Due in part to Ervin’s success, the Packers’ average starting point was the 34-yard line compared to the 22 for Washington.
“I think I did a pretty good job. Always can get better,” Ervin said. “Just have to go and watch the film tomorrow and see where we can improve. Me definitely, just have to continue to get my head down and get as much as I can. Try not to force anything but when the yards are there, I just have to take them.”
It wasn’t all Ervin. While Washington’s Tress Way entered the game leading the NFL in gross punting average and net punting average, half of his punts had been returned for an average of 9.7 yards per runback. Way is a bombs-away punter who kicks the ball straight down the middle of the field rather than angling the ball toward the sideline to limit the returner’s options.
“That was very encouraging,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “We knew we were going to have some opportunities. Tress Way, he really booms the ball out there, so we figured we’d have some ops for some returns. I thought Tyler came in and did a great job for us. And I thought the guys blocked for him well, as well.”
Indeed, it helped that Ervin didn’t have a bunch of defenders in his face, a luxury that past returners Tremon Smith, Darrius Shepherd and Trevor Davis generally lacked.
“I think they did an amazing job,” Ervin said. “From the week of practice we had, I think we just focused in on what we needed to do and we came out and executed.”
Ervin’s first return, the aforementioned 10-yarder, gave Green Bay the ball at midfield and led to a touchdown. Ervin’s second return was a 12-yarder that set up the offense on Washington’s 48. Ervin’s third return went for 18 yards to the 43 and helped set up the team’s second touchdown.
It was a superb debut for a player who made a name for himself at San Jose State by cutting hair and returning kicks for touchdowns.
“Swervin’ Ervin. That’s his nickname,” Jones said. “It’s definitely game changing. It flips the field. We started a lot of drives on the plus side or midfield or the 40. Anytime you do that, you get a smile. That’s a weapon that you can use. I’m glad we have him here. Look forward to seeing him return.”