29

March

2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Tight Ends

What chemistry problem?

With such a deep receiving corps, the Green Bay Packers have been able to let things slide a bit at the tight end position.  The question is how much longer they can afford to do so.  Starting tight end Jermichael Finley set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end while the departed Tom Crabtree seemingly scored a touchdown every time the Packers played on national television.

With Crabtree gone and Finley entering the final year of his contract, the tight ends face a crucial year in 2013.  Could the Packers draft a tight end early in this spring’s draft? Will Finley become the game changing weapon everyone thought he could be back in 2009? Who will replace Crabtree as the blocking specialist among them?

Where are we now:

Here are the current suspects:

Jermichael Finley (3rd round, 2008)

D.J. Williams (5th round, 2011)

Ryan Taylor (7th round, 2011)

Brandon Bostick (undrafted free agent, 2012)

Andrew Quarless (5th round, 2010)

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Finley: The player so many fans love to hate.  His mouth got him into trouble early in the season but he came around late and had some solid games to close out the regular season.

Williams: Disappointing 2012.  He was expected by some to potentially push Finley for the starting role in training camp or at the very least take some snaps away from him.  Instead he potentially finds himself on the roster bubble heading into 2013.

Taylor: Special teams contributor and that was about it. Made headlines when he was fined during the season for an illegal block against the Arizona Cardinals.

Bostick: Non contributor, added for depth.

Quarless: Injury from 2011 rendered him useless for 2012.

So that’s where we are. Next let’s look at…

Where we want to be:

For all the depth Green Bay has at wide receiver,  they are still lacking that difference maker at the tight end position. After his strong season in 2009, many though Finley was going to be one of the best tight ends in the game.  Thanks to an injury in 2010 followed by a case of the drops and a bout with oral diarrhea, Finley finds himself potentially on the way out of Green Bay.

All signs (at the moment) point to him being back with the Packers but who knows what offers could come as we get closer to the NFL draft?  Finley deserves one last chance thanks to his strong finish in 2012 but if the right offer comes the Packers should make a trade for another first round pick.

With the departure of Greg Jennings, having a playmaker at the tight end position would be huge for the Packers. It would ease pressure on Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson plus give Aaron Rodgers yet another option in the  passing game.

The Packers also need a tight end that can block to replace the departed Tom Crabtree.   It will take an all-around tight end to succeed in the Packers’ offense. Can that be Finley? If it is, then it’s now or never.

How do we get there?

Let’s get this out of the way first: keep Finley.   He seemingly turned the corner late last year and it looks like he knows the writing is on the wall for 2013.  It’s now certainly do or die time for him in Green Bay.

Crabtree left for greener pastures with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  Unless Quarless has shown significant progress from his 2011 injury, you have to think that he could be an injury settlement in training camp which means Williams and Taylor could be duking it out for a roster spot.  Assuming the team keeps Finley (likely barring a draft day trade),  a third or fourth round draft pick could compete for a spot potentially leaving Williams and Taylor on the bubble.  Bostick is a practice squad member at best  but could be cut.

The Packers need to decide in a hurry if Finley is their answer as starting tight end.   As mentioned above, this is the final year of his contract so if Green Bay isn’t sold on him, then a first or second round draft pick could be in order.  Whatever direction they go in will be a roll of the dice as Finley could either (finally) realize his potential or continue down the path of a chronic underachiever.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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26 Responses to “2013 Packers Position Group Analysis: Tight Ends”

  1. ThomasMagnumPI ThomasMagnumPI says:

    Has anyone heard any buzz on Bostick lately? I’ve read that MM is “high” on him, singling him out as a guy to keep an eye on.

    I would like to see a TE drafted this year that can be expected to step in and start in 2014 in case Finley is not re-signed. There are some good points that Finley will not be back in 2014, regardless of his production (too expensive if he does well, gone if he plays poorly).

    Can Vance McDonald be that guy? He’s a monster with great measurables, but suspect hands–from what I’ve read. It will be interesting to see if TT pulls the trigger on a TE in the first 3 rounds this year, especially if Eiffert is there at pick 26.

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    • Dobber says:

      It makes sense that a bigger body at TE (like McDonald) would be the pick if they feel confident in the more H-back type TEs already on the roster (Williams, Taylor).

      This is the most negatively I’ve heard anyone speak on Quarless and his potential return, which doesn’t bode well. Quarless returning and showing little sign of being hampered by his past injury means TE is a rd. 4-6 priority. If Quarless isn’t going to make it back, it moves TE into days 1-2 of the draft.

      Either way, I see Finley’s days as numbered in GB, and hope he plays really well so the Packers get the benefit of a big season and earn a good compensatory pick when he signs for megabucks somewhere else.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

      • James says:

        I think picking another Tight End in this draft would be a good Idea.

        One that isn’t on the radar but seems to have all the tangibles as Tyler Eifert…That being height (6′-6″) speed and good hands to catch downfield. I think he is even better at blocking.
        That player is Zach Sudfeld out of Nevada. Since he’s from a smaller school I don’t know too much about him but what clips I saw of him playing showed a lot of promise and would make him a good pick…Especially in the 7th round.

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        • Stroh says:

          How is Eifert not on the radar? He’s the #1 TE in the draft. He’s another Finley type TE, so he’s unlikely to get drafted in the 1st by GB. He’ll go end 1st to early 2nd. He’s not under the radar at all IMO.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

          • Dobber says:

            He’s saying Sudfeld is under the radar…”as Eifert” as opposed to “is Eifert”

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. [...] in for this expanded coverage of the original Packers Tight Ends Position Group Post, and much, much [...]

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  3. lars1 says:

    The WR corp isn’t as deep as people think. Down to three receivers, essentially, and one of Nelson isn’t going to be around much longer thanks to the tight salary cap. (Please no comments on the 4.6 speed Jarrett Boiken being a viable option.)

    Williams has really been the disappointment at TE, but that’s what you get when you value the position this little. 5th round picks tend to fail. The Packers need Finley to take this job, shut his mouth and perform for the next several years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

    • Stroh says:

      I dont think their will be many changes at TE this year. I think Finley plays well and gets an extension for 4 yrs that lowers his cap number. Quarless ans Williams will take over Crabtree playing time more than adequately. Taylor on ST and Bostic developing his recieving ability.

      Don’t see a need for a TE at all.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Stroh says:

      Boykin tests are virtually identical to James Jones. Go look it up. 40 time shuttle cone all samr overall. Just needs to get stronger and. he’s a Jones clone. Whats not to like about that?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

      • Dobber says:

        I find myself thinking that if Boykin is a Jones clone Driver would have never been active last season…just a thought.

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        • Stroh says:

          Well even if Driver was active he didn’t play much if any more than Boykin. And I didn’t say Boykin was ready for a role last year (he was an undrafted FA afterall). He needed to get stroger, which I mentioned and to refine his game. We’ll see this year… I for one would like to see what he can do this year instead of giving a role to a draft pick.

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    • Oppy says:

      lars, not every WR has to be a deep threat to be a viable option.

      I have a feeling they are looking at Boykin to be a fearless, sure-handed across-the-middle type of receiver. Time will tell.

      Don’t forget that slow 40 guys include some WR’s with last names like “Rice”.

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  4. Big T says:

    Finley is like a fine wine that was uncorked to soon and half the cork fell into the bottle. You can try and try and never get all the cork out. So TT put a new cork on the bottle. I am here to tell you it doesn’t work that way. It is kinda like trying to piss up a rope, your gonna get wet my friend…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    • Dobber says:

      Wow…I very rarely hear the phrase “piss up a rope” without it being a command.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. Oppy says:

    I think we may be reading too much into QUarless not being activated in 2012- I don’t think there has been any talk of his injury recovery going poorly, and certainly not enough to suggest he’s a likely injury settlement cut, unless there is info out there I haven’t seen.

    In fact, if I recall, Quarless was running and cutting on his knee before he was eligible to come off of PUP. That said, I still do worry that he won’t be the same player, but I have a feeling he wasn’t held back from activation due to his knee not being able to play on, but more so because the Packers felt they needed the roster spot to be used elsewhere and extra time to recover from injury is never a bad thing.

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    • Stroh says:

      Quarless is what he is… A good blocking TE and a good in-line TE. Finley is the recieving threat and no one else is close. Thats not going to change. When Quarless returns, he’ll be what he was before. A good blocking, good in-line TE. He doesn’t have the game to be a threat in space like Finley is. He and Williams will easily make up for Crabtree and will be much better than Crabtree. Taylor is a ST guy and might be used in some blocking, but don’t count on it. The wildcard is Bostick (and maybe Williams). He is the one guy w/ any chance of becoming a TE that creates issues for the D. He could develop into a smaller version of Finley as a reciever in space.

      Recieving is what TE’s get the big money for. Blocking and in-line TE’s are a dime a dozen.

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      • Oppy says:

        Quarless has plenty of skills to receive, he’s just not a deep speed guy.

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  6. Oppy says:

    Crabtree wasn’t as good of a blocker as he was made out by fans to be.

    Ryan Taylor is probably the nastiest MF’er on the team and I’m pretty confident he is more than capable of blocking at least as well as Crabtree did.

    If Quarless is okay, he’s the teams best blocking TE. Let’s not even entertain the idea of Finley ever being a capable blocker- he just doesn’t have the disposition to put his nose in there and mix it up. Princess.

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  7. Oppy says:

    Almost forgot the obligatory Quarless highlight film:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z46PLpbhAXE

    Yup, I’m going to post this every time it’s applicable. :) :)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    • Stroh says:

      Just remember it took 5 seconds and alot of Rodgers scrambling for Quarless to get open. What about the “highlite” when Quarless was in space, on the fake kick and Flynn threw him a perfect pass only to see Quarless end up w/ a facefull of turf!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV9WXP4dd6o

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      • Oppy says:

        YOu didn’t notice quarless pancake Allen before comming across the field? You missed the whole point.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

        • Stroh says:

          Pancaking an unsuspecting DE on a crackback play when the DE doesn’t know he’s coming? Good play by Quarless but hardly anything to get all excited about.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

      • Oppy says:

        There’s more to a play than just a guy catching a ball. Quarless put on a clinic on that particular play in just about every facet a TE could be concerned with, and you just dismissed it with “it took 5 seconds to get open”.

        He goes in motion, alignment shifts, crack blocks and pancakes one of the NFL’s leading pass rushing ends, identifies his QB needs help, improvises to find a hole in the zone, makes the catch and turns it up field to move the sticks.

        You don’t have to like Quarless, but I wonder if you fully appreciate football when you write off that particular play by stating it took him 5 seconds to get open.

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        • Stroh says:

          He cracked back on an unsuspecting DE that didn’t know he was coming. Good play, but hardly what I would call a pancake. He did his job well and made a fairly easy block. Then becuz he was blocker the D didn’t stay w/ him till a MLB saw him late. He was open, not by getting himself open, but becuz he made a block.

          I like Quarless. He’s the best in-line TE on the team and a good blocker. But he doesn’t get himself open consistently or create seperation. He is what he is… An in-line TE and good blocker, thats not an insult. He has a role but he can’t get himself open in space.

          Finley is hardly a burner either, yet he consistently gets himself open in space and makes plays downfield. In fact Quarless is faster than Finley. Quarless had 12 games as the #1 TE after Finley went down in ’10.

          This is Finley in ’09 when he played in 13 games.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnWzc-PnvUE

          Quarless had 12 games in “10 as the #1 TE. WHere are his highlites. A block here a catch there. No plays made in space. Quarless might have been able to make 3 of the plays that Finley did. And it has little to do w/ speed or being a deep threat.

          I accept Quarless for what he is and appreciate him for what he is, but I don’t make him out to be something he isn’t, and it seems you’re doing that.

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        • Stroh says:

          See Finley can do that too…

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=bDdLSIh2_sI&NR=1

          Makes it possible for Driver to make a play, but Driver drops the ball.

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  8. Ron LC says:

    TE is an interesting position for future consideration. If Finley has a great year his salary demands will be a major “Cap” issue for 2014. If he has a lousy year he will be allowed to see what other teams think of him. If he does ok, just ok, they will try to renegotiate. That is highly unlikely to sit well with Finley and/or his agent.

    So what does the future look like? It’s is highly dependent on Quarles and his return or failure to return. Keeping 4 TE’s is not going to happen. Flip a coin between Taylor or Smith. If a TE is drafted and Quarles is healthy look for both Taylor and Smith to be gone.

    Keeping Bostick would be a huge surprise. So, in my mind he is goen regardless of what else happens.

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