24

October

Charting Life After Finley

Much has been made rightly so about Jermichael Finley’s injury; I won’t go too much in depth because it’s been covered by several of my fellow writers but I will add that it’s great to hear that indications point to Finley avoiding a life-changing injury; ultimately the injury may cost him his career as a professional football player but at least he will be able to live a relatively normal life afterwards.  Going back to football, the question becomes “what do the Packer do now without Cobb, Jones AND now Finley?”  Obviously Finley was more a wide receiver than a traditional inline tight end and therefore could compensate somewhat for losing both Jones and Cobb but now that Finley is also out for the foreseeable future, what does the Packers wide receiver and tight end cores look like and how will they operate?  Keep in mind tight end is the joker of the Packers offense as tight ends often play inline, in the slot, as a fullback, as a move tight end and sometimes even on the outside; a lot of the Packers’ creativity, versatility and matchup problems come from moving tight ends around so seeing what they do with their tight ends is often a good indication of what their offense will operate.

I think the simplistic view is to look at body types and try to project players into Finley’s role.  Andrew Quarless is naturally the first option as he has the most experience and receiving production of the remaining tight ends.  Quarless is also a good blocker and thus likely would have seen time on offense even with Finley playing so playing him wouldn’t arouse as many suspicions as any other player.  The second option would be Brandon Bostick, a former wide receiver in a tight end body that has been with the Packers since 2012 who might be the most athletically gifted of the backup pass catchers.  The Packers obviously see something in him by keeping him this long and keeping him on the 53 man roster and his history as a wide receiver could help compensate for the more “wide receiver” like plays that Finley often made. However, just looking at body type and playing history is often misleading, Quarless has been in this situation before in 2010 when Finley was lost for the year with a torn ACL and did nothing with it and Bostick wasn’t even able to beat DJ Williams last year for a spot on the roster.

To answer the question of what the wide receiver and tight end core will look like without Finley more throughly, I’ve charted every play that included a tight end after Finley’s injury to see how the Packers were using their tight ends with such a limited pool of playmakers.

Drive 1: Packers 17, Browns 6 (10:03 4th quarter)

  • 1st and 10 at CLE 41: Quarless and Bostick both align in trips formation; both block for a 1 yard Eddie Lacy run up the gut.
  • 2nd and 9 at CLE 40: Quarless aligns inline while Bostick motions out to what would be a flanker; both block for a 39 yard pass to Jarrett Boykin that stops at the 1.  Aaron Rodgers mentioned on his weekly radio show that this was a textbook example of “protecting the G” (because Rodgers was was standing right on the G at midfield) and Quarless has an exceptional block on the left side of the formation.
  • 1st and goal at CLE 1: Quarless aligns at fullback while Bostick aligns inline; Rodgers calls timeout so it’s unknown what assignments the tight ends had but considering it’s assumed that Rodgers called the timeout because a player was out of position it’s likely that a tight end was the culprit.
  • 1st and goal at CLE 1: Quarless and Bostick both align in trips formation; both block on a 1 yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson.  My opinion was this was a run-pass option for Rodgers, who drilled the quick slant to Nelson instead of handing it to the running back as all the blockers appear to be drive blocking.

Drive 2: Packers 24, Browns 13 (6:07 4th quarter)

  • 1st and 10, at GB 46: Quarless aligns inline; blocks for a 11 yard Eddie Lacy run off right guard.
  • 1st and 10 at CLE 43: Quarless aligns inline; blocks for a -2 yard Eddie Lacy run off left end.
  • 2nd and 12 at CLE 45: Quarless aligns inline; runs a 7 route and is double teamed.  Rodgers incomplete passes to Jarrett Boykin on the other side of the formation, but Buster Skrine gets called for defensive passing interference for 21 yards.  In my opinion Quarless runs a decent route and but Rodgers looks away after seeing Quarless being bracketed, but a “win” route for Quarless nevertheless.
  • 1st and 10 at CLE 24: Quarless aligns inline; blocks for a 4 yard Eddie Lacy run off right end.
  • 2nd and 6 at CLE 20: Quarless motions to trips; runs a 9 route and carries the safety away from the play which is a 20 yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Boykin on the opposite side of the formation.  Again, Quarless does his job and doesn’t allow the deep safety to cheat over to Boykin’s side so another “win” route.

Drive 3: Packers 31, Browns 13 (1:12 4th quarter)

  • 1st and 10 at GB 7: Quarless and Bostick align inline on opposite sides of the formation; both block for a 2 yard Eddie Lacy run off left end.
  • 2nd and 8 at GB 9: No tight ends on the field, 2 yard Eddie Lacy run off left end
  • 3rd and 6 at GB 11: Quarless aligns inline; 4 yard John Kuhn run off left end.

I would essentially disregard drive 3 since at that point in the game the Packers are only looking to burn off clock, but during drive 1 and 2 the Packers were still looking for big plays and points as evidenced by two long Jarrett Boykin receptions, so it’s not like the tight ends were in only as run blockers.  Overall, the Packers have been shifting to a more conservative offense after losing Jones and Cobb so it wasn’t a ground breaking changing when Finley was injured, however often times on passing plays it’s just Nelson and Boykin running routes, which would lead to squeezed coverages and more double teams in previous years.  Luckily a healthy dose of Eddie Lacy forced the Brown to respect the run which in turn gives more separation for the receivers (notably Boykin).  Perhaps most interesting is that Quarless only ran two routes through out the entire play set while Bostick, supposedly the more natural pass catcher didn’t run a single route.  Also interesting is that at no point did any of the tight ends align anywhere that would be considered “non-traditional” for a tight end; both Quarless and Bostick spent most of their time inline with the offensive line, hence it’s likely that neither Bostick nor Quarless will be working as a wide receiver either out wide or in the slot in the future.  While the sample size is admittedly small, the play calling shifted to a more bunched, run oriented approach than the spread out, empty backfield formations that we’ve seen from Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers in previous years, which shouldn’t be all that surprising considering the circumstances.  Rather than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, something that has happened in previous seasons), McCarthy and Rodgers are wisely rolling with what works and thus their offensive philosophy has shifted to a more balanced approach.

However it is important to point out while the tight ends aren’t seeing as much production in replacement as Finley, both routes that Quarless ran should be considered victories as they opened up the field for other players, and naturally as defenses start keying in on Jarrett Boykin more, other pass catchers such as Quarless will have their opportunities.  Overall, I don’t think the Packers will be able to replace Finley’s production as a matchup nightmare/hybrid tight end but that shouldn’t be a dig at Quarless or Bostick.  I think they will be able to contribute some sneaky production ala Tom Crabtree while giving the Packers some flexibility and unpredictability on offense.  While it sucks that Finley isn’t on the field to help the Packers, it should be remembered that the Packers managed to win a Super Bowl with Finley on the side line and it’s possible that they could play at a high level again with Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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19 Responses to “Charting Life After Finley”

  1. Chad Lundberg says:

    Jermichael Finley did not have a torn ACL (in 2010).

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    • Stroh says:

      Torn Miniscus and I believe a torn MCL.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

    • Alex Parkhurst says:

      You are correct. It was a torn meniscus, but the point of the article was he was going to be out for 2 to 3 months with this injury and the success the Packers achieved without him.

      The 2010 team overcame a lot of injuries and won the Super Bowl. It can be done again.

      I have said this before, hats off to the coaches, scouts and TT for having the backups we do have.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Fair enough, my mistake

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      • Chad Lundberg says:

        Sorry Hobbes, it’s just I see almost every writer, professional and fan based websites, say torn ACL on Jermichael Finley’s injury from 2010. It bugs after a while.

        I regard you as one of the smartest writers I know.

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        • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

          No worries, I’d rather be corrected than put out incorrect data. I think the confusion likely comes from the fact that ACL tears are more common, hence most “knee” injuries are all called ACL.

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  2. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    I appreciate the effort charting plays, but don’t think you can conclude much from just two ‘live fire’ series against Cleveland.

    It’s one thing to be pressed into emergency roles as an injury replacement in the last quarter of a game; it’s quite a different thing to take on a designed role with a full week of game planning and practice to prepare.

    That applies to all of Quarless, Bostick, and Myles White from their limited roles in the Browns game, and will begin to apply to Stoneburner and Chris Harper as they get up to speed.

    So a charting exercise will tell us a lot more after Sunday’s game than it can right now.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      I mentioned that you should take charting 2-3 drives with a grain of salt, but I don’t think Quarless, Bostick were “unprepared”; with Jones and Cobb out, the Packers were likely going to be playing multiple tight ends through out the game anyways, so they should have been prepared to play either way.

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      • Stroh says:

        Quarless isn’t prepared to take on a Finley role. He won’t be asked to either. I’m guessing he’ll be the inline TE almost exclusively this week and Bostic will figure into the passing quite a bit more. Bostic has little to no experience as an inline TE having played WR in college. So Bostic will “step” into the Finley role. I just don’t know if Bostic is ready for that kinda role either. I hope I’m surprised and his development is further along that I think it is. Either way Quarless is what he is, a traditional inline TE who doesn’t function very well in space. Bostic should at least be better in space due to his WR background.

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      • Ed Schoenfeld says:

        I appreciated your warning in the article about small sample size, but my point was not that Boykin was ‘unprepared’ for the Ravens game or Quarless/White/Bostick for the Browns.

        My point was that a backup prepares *differently* from an obvious starter or major contributor. It’s not just the player himself — the whole team has an entire week to practice with that specific player’s personal capabilities and preferences in mind.

        The ‘next man up’ idea is not simply replacing the same guy, which probably can’t be done in any ‘exact’ cookie-cutter way. It’s the team taking on the mentality of maximizing results with the specific players available.

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  3. Archie says:

    MM no doubt has a tendency to go conservative with offense when missing key starters. Of course the score will matter too. Ponder makes Vikes more dangerous at home. Patterson on ST will be danger as will Peterson as will GJ. If Vikes take lead, MM will be forced to open it up some. I look for a competitive game. 9 point spread seems like a gift.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      I would say that the Packers were actually pretty aggressive for drives 1 and 2; the Browns had gone nowhere fast up to that point and if the Packers had just burned the clock they still probably would have won given how the game was going.

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  4. Tarynfor12 Tarynfor12 says:

    One of the most cheered about aspect of Finley was his attracting attention for fear of his explosive play making which for the most part was unseen amongst his many drops…I’m not attempting to kick a man when he is down but reality is reality and though it seemed he was coming around any assumption of him maintaining such for now is at least moot.

    The moment Rodgers hits Quarless for a couple of plays that are definitive as being a threat, the role that Finley kinda,sorta occupied will reappear with the same or perhaps a more production benefit as defenses may be a tad leery of offering up the same cover of Quarless until Rodgers proves him a weapon of use. As in Drive 2 play 3 above drawing a double cover aka Finley…no more,no less.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      I’m actually a little surprised that the Browns decided to double Quarless (unless it was a coverage breakdown) considering how many times Rodgers was trying to feed Boykin the ball.

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  5. JRMD says:

    This article war ridiculous. ” Life without Finley”?! The guy isn’t dead. Lets not deep six the guy quite yet. If you are talking about the month or so it may take for him to get back to football, it’s no different then any other player! Next man up! This article is negative and a buzz kill. Let’s let the injury and time table play out, shall we? The guy had a freak accident and tourqed his cord. There is no mechanical repair required and no structural instability. He is no more likely to experience this injury again than any other player. Get of the morbid train and have some faith and positive thoughts for god’s sake!!

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    • packett says:

      Ok. I’m off the train. It is a nice here.

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    • Razer says:

      While I might be inclined to agree that we are premature in talking about Finley in the past tense, I think that will be the reality. Finley took a lot of time coming back from his knee injury. At the best of times he has been gun-shy going over the middle. A spinal cord injury will be hard for this TE to overcome. He’ll play but not at a level that we will expect. It is too bad because he was actually starting to play well.

      I doubt that many Packer fans will have much patience for a 8 to 9 million dollar TE who is dropping balls and shys away from the middle. This will be Finley’s last season as a Packer.

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  6. GBPDAN says:

    JRMD, the problem is, its a very strong possibility that the Packers are going to put Finley on IR soon so that he can fully recover, be evaluated more as more time passes by, and give him time to think about his decision. The Packers are a team that takes these types of situations very seriously and will error on the side of caution. Finley will be on IR by the end of next week.

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  7. Michael says:

    Last year when we lost Jennings and Jordy, everyone knew Cobb and Jones would step up. Not very many people expected Jarrett Boykin last week. If he can come in and have another great game, losing Cobb, Jones, and Finley won’t hurt as bad. I have a feeling though, because of the great game he had last week, there are gonna be huge holes for Lacy, and big down field plays for Jordy. Either way, he has already impacted the Vikings D.

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