That the Packers are going with Frost over Ryan — who general manager Ted Thompson said "can hit punts like nobody I've ever seen" — is surprising on a statistical basis.
Punting in three of Washington's five preseason games, the fifth-year pro out of Northern Iowa averaged an impressive 45.5 yards but had a net of just 32.3. Ryan, meanwhile, ranked fifth in the league this preseason with a 48.0 average. His net was 37.7.
The career numbers are even more one-sided in favor of Ryan.
Ryan was ninth in the NFL last season with an average of 44.4 yards and tied for 11th with a net average of 37.6, considerable improvements over 2006, when he averaged 44.5 yards with a net of just 35.7 as a rookie. Frost, meanwhile, averaged 41.0 yards per punt last season with a net of 36.4. In four NFL seasons (2004 in Cleveland and 2005 to 2007 in Washington), he has a career average of 41.1 yards with a net of 36.4.
Still, Thompson is switching gears, not only in punters but place-kicking holders. One area where the strong-legged Ryan struggled was when punting from around midfield to inside the opponents' 40-yard line. Frost, who kicked a few knuckleballs during practice that stopped on a dime or bounced sideways, is statistically superior to Ryan in that regard. In four seasons, he has 97 punts downed inside the 20-yard line with 24 touchbacks compared to Ryan's two-year totals of 35 inside-the-20s and 23 touchbacks.
"Obviously, that is a very important aspect of punting if you can do it," Thompson said of directional kicking. "It's rare that you can find somebody that is very accomplished, but we do think that Derrick brings that ability a little bit. It's sort of the whole package, and this is not a kill Jon Ryan thing. He is a good punter and very impressive strength, like I said. I think we were just looking for a little bit more consistency."
Frost said he had three tryouts lined up, but was signed by the Packers without a tryout. He was released in the Redskins' final cuts.
"I really do pride myself on holding and directional punting," Frost said.
Frost hopes a new approach will lift his numbers. He averaged 40.4 yards or less per punt in four of his final eight games last season.
"Last year, looking back at it, I think I kicked too many balls," said Frost, who attributed a strained knee ligament as a rookie to kicking too much. "I think I wore myself out. I'm a real hard-nosed guy and I work really hard, and sometimes I don't work smart. This offseason, I really focused on working smarter."
Almost as surprising was the release of Hodge, who rebounded in a big way during training camp after missing all of last season with knee injuries. He played well enough this preseason to make the 53-man roster, but with long snapper J.J. Jansen placed on injured reserve with a knee injury, the Packers were forced to seek a replacement.
Thompson said the Packers tried to trade Hodge but found no takers. So, they released the hard-hitting third-year pro from a position that emerged from Saturday's final cuts with seven linebackers, including Brandon Chillar, rising Desmond Bishop and special-teams standout Tracy White in reserve.
"At the end of the day, after a couple of days extra time to kind of think it out, we just felt like this was probably the best way to go about it in terms of protecting our team and also adding the players that we needed to add," Thompson said.
Goode signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in April 2007 and participated in training camp before being released. He re-signed with the Jaguars in March 2008 before his release in June.
"You're lucky, you could get in your first year, or it could take anywhere from up to three or four years," Goode said of the path followed by many special-teams players. He was taking a break from pouring concrete when he learned of this opportunity.