Category Archives: Tight Ends

14

February

Ryan Taylor Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor

1) Introduction:  When fans think of a career special teams player, they typically balk at the idea.  After all, the Packers (especially one lauded for its depth the last couple years), should be filled with potential stars, not guys who will be replaced and forgotten in a year.  However, Packers fans should know that special teams player can make a difference, just look at Desmond Howard or even Jarrett Bush, sure he isn’t all that good as a cornerback but he is really good at his primary job, which is as a gunner on special teams.  Ryan Taylor fits in the same mold, while his skills at tight end have yet to surface, there are spots on the team for a stud special teams player like Taylor was billed to be after getting drafted, the question is: is he any good at special teams in the NFL?

2) Profile:

Ryan Lawrence Taylor

  • Age: 26
  • Born: 11/16/1987 in Winston-Salem, NC
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 254
  • College: North Carolina
  • Rookie Year: 2011
  • NFL Experience: 3

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Moderately low.  Taylor has been largely invisible during his 3 year career, being mostly relegated to special teams play, which was likely the reason Taylor was drafted in the first place since Taylor played most of his college football as a linebacker, only really switching to tight end for his last season with the Tar Heels.  That being said, Taylor has not exactly done much on special teams in the NFL; while he hasn’t been a liability on special teams, he also hasn’t made much of an impact, so he’s sort of the quintessential “just a guy” football player that often comprises the bottom third of a football team.  However, with the expiring contracts of both Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless, the Packers were likely hoping to see some improvement in Taylor that could perhaps justify moving him up to the backup tight end position; Taylor has had some very nice offseason/preseason performances and the hope would have been that he could build a little upon that and become a rotational/part time tight end for the Packers.

14

February

Andrew Quarless Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

quarless_andrew_2151) Introduction:  ”God’s gift” has been forgotten by many Packers fans after a gruesome knee/leg injury caused Andrew Quarless’ sophomore season to vanish.  However with the looming contract situation with Jermichael Finley and the loss of Greg Jennings during the offseason, there were plenty of balls to catch and Quarless’ figured to be one of the guys the Packers wanted to see before they decided on an extension.  The stars basically aligned themselves with Quarless, first with mounting injuries to the receiving core and then with a terrible neck injury to Jermichael Finley, and then with Aaron Rodgers being replaced by a spate of quarterbacks that would naturally look to for a tight end as a safety valve.  Unfortunately, Quarless did not capitalize on his fortunes and looks to make a fortune probably smaller than he hoped.

2) Profile:

Andrew Christopher Quarless

  • Age: 25
  • Born: 10/6/1988 in Brooklyn, NY
  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 252
  • College: Penn State
  • Rookie Year: 2010
  • NFL Experience: 4

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Moderately low. On one hand, Quarless suffered a brutal knee injury that was significant enough to cause him to miss the entire 2012 season.  Naturally it wasn’t expected for Quarless to immediately return to football shape let alone reintegrate himself back into the offense.  On the other hand, Quarless should have been fully healed after taking a year off was considered by many to be the Packers most complete tight end with the ability to both operate as an inline blocker (which is a little bit odd since he’s not a very good blocker), a pass catcher as well as the H-back/fullback that the Packers love to employ.  Add to that 2013 was Quarless’s contract year along with fellow tight end Jermichael Finley and the Packers were probably hoping that Quarless would blossom into a tight end that would lessen the blow should Finley find employment elsewhere next year.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Quarless’ best game of the season was undoubtedly against the hapless Falcons in week 14 where he recorded 6 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown on a nice back shoulder throw with Matt Flynn under center.   Quarless’ lowlight was also undoubtedly against the Cleveland Browns in week 7 after he was thrusted into the spotlight with Jermichael Finley leaving with a neck injury.  Perhaps unready to be “the guy” or shook up over Finley’s injury, Quarless was abysmal in run blocking and failed to record a reception even with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball.

7

February

Ryan Pickett Green Bay Packers 2013 Evaluation and Report Card

Ryan Pickett

Ryan Pickett

1) Introduction:  Now Ted Thompson’s lone “big name” free agent signing, Pickett perhaps hasn’t had the impact of Charles Woodson but certainly has justified his signing with very consistent play in one of the NFL’s most physically taxing positions.  However 2013 was a turning point for Pickett; not only was it a contract year but also with shifting trends in the NFL looking for lighter and more explosive players, was a run-first gap-clogger still worth something in the league?

2) Profile:

Ryan “Big Grease” Lamont Pickett

  • Age: 34
  • Born: 10/8/1979 in Zephyrhills, FL
  • Height: 6’2″
  • Weight: 338
  • College: Ohio State
  • Rookie Year: 2001
  • NFL Experience: 13

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season:  Moderately high.  Pickett was one of the steady defenders for the Packers last year and while his numbers or statistics didn’t pop off the screen, being mostly a nose tackle responsible for eating up double teams and standing your ground doesn’t usually garner much attention.  The most indicative number for Pickett was probably the number of snaps he took last year, 658, which is astounding for such a big guy playing such a physically taxing position.  Expecting Pickett to suddenly start picking up sacks or tackles for losses was unrealistic for an aging playing in a position of little “splash” plays but a successful and productive defensive line in part is due to Pickett’s unselfish play.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Pickett’s highlight ironically might have been when the Packers were at their worst, namely the 10-40 drubbing the Packers experienced against the Lions Thanksgiving day; Pickett recorded a quarterback hurry (he only had 5 total in 2013), 1 tackle and 2 assists, and 1 run stop.  Pickett’s lowlight was again ironically maybe when the Packers were at their best, during their last minute win against Chicago for a trip to the playoffs; Pickett played only 26 snaps, and was unusually poor in run defense.

4

January

Cory’s Corner: Vernon Davis is a nightmare for Packers

When the weather is under 40°, Vernon Davis has four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

When the weather is under 40°, Vernon Davis has four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Packers fans have taken a beating by many folks leading up to Sunday’s playoff game.

The green and gold faction has been accused of being soft for the biblical cold that is supposed to engulf the upper Midwest like a tiny blanket that always keeps your feet freezing.

But thanks to sponsors that kicked in the final dough to mark the 320th straight sellout on Sunday while keeping the last time the Packers didn’t sell out was January 1983.

So, a blackout and empty frozen aluminum bleachers won’t be a problem.

But Vernon Davis will be.

At a chiseled 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, Davis might be the most impressive looking athlete on the field Sunday. He’s a huge target that can catch, run and he regularly makes safeties and cornerbacks fold up like lawn chairs. Think of Davis as a carbon copy of Packers’ tight end Jermichael Finley, except a little more sure handed and sure headed.

In a game in which it will feel like -17° at kickoff and drop 7° three hours later, the ball will contract which will make the vertical passing game much more difficult.

Enter Davis. He is second on the team in targets and he has set career highs with touchdowns (13) and yards per reception (16.3). The eighth year tight end has shown this year he’s a favorite of Colin Kaepernick when it matters because of his 52 grabs, 38 percent of them have been made on third down.

Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers wants to keep this worn and weary defense off the field as much as possible. And now with Michael Crabtree back from injury and playing well, the Packers won’t have the luxury of double teaming Davis because they also have to deal with quasi tight end Anquan Boldin as the other receiver.

Which means, a linebacker will more than likely be matched up with Davis for much of the game.  Which is music to San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and Davis’ ears. He can run circles around just about any linebacker in the league — sans his own — and he can run over most defensive backs.

2

November

Cory’s Corner: Adversity makes Rodgers MVP worthy

Aaron Rodgers has been playing without his top weapons for two weeks and hasn't missed a beat.

Aaron Rodgers has been playing without his top weapons for two weeks and hasn’t missed a beat.

We all know that Aaron Rodgers is good.

But in the last two weeks he’s actually given us a value of how good.

With Randall Cobb and James Jones out with injury, he effortlessly beat Cleveland at home with only nine incompletions as he spread the wealth to eight different receivers.

And then last week, with Jermichael Finley out, he carved up the Vikings. He spread it around to six different receivers and of those, four were still getting used to being thrust into an increased role thanks to a rash of injuries.

Now I know the Browns and Vikings aren’t exactly the cream of any crop whatsoever, but Rodgers proved that he is the Packers’ puppet master.

In a year in which Peyton Manning is taking a machete to the passing record book, Rodgers just put himself in the NFL MVP discussion.

Everyone, including myself, didn’t think it was possible for Rodgers to jell with guys like Jarrett Boykin, a Jacksonville castoff, Myles White, a practice squad promotion, and Andrew Quarless, whose career has been truncated due to injury. The last time Quarless caught five passes in a game was Dec. 2010.

There’s a reason why these guys are backups. Obviously Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jermichael Finley are exponentially more talented than this trio. There’s a reason why Rodgers gets all the reps with the No. 1’s in preseason camp so they can quickly get on the same page and develop that needed nonverbal communication that’s so important for success.

Rodgers hasn’t been given that much time with White and Boykin. It’s only been a couple weeks. Usually quarterbacks begin their critical timing at mini-camp and follow that up with more reps at training camp, which lasts five weeks.

And the nice thing about Rodgers is that he hasn’t made any excuses. He keeps plugging along — and winning games for Brett Favre’s fantasy football team.

It looks like it’s going to be the same script again for Rodgers when the Bears come to Lambeau on Monday night. Cobb and Finley are out and Jones isn’t close to making a return. Rodgers’ numbers aren’t going to be as glossy as Manning’s. With a superior running game, Eddie Lacy has been cutting into some of Rodgers’ production, but that shouldn’t detract from Rodgers playing with the Misfit Toys (plus Jordy Nelson) going on three weeks.

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.

23

October

If Finley is out for the season, can Quarless do the job?

Andrew Quarless was visibly shaken by Jermichael Finley's injury. Should Packers fans worry about Quarless as the No. 1 tight end?

Andrew Quarless was visibly shaken by Jermichael Finley’s injury. Should Packers fans worry about Quarless as the No. 1 tight end?

Three years ago in 2010, the Green Bay Packers won a Super Bowl with a rookie Andrew Quarless as their starting tight end.

That year, Jermichael Finley suffered a knee injury in week six against Washington and was forced to miss the remainder of the season; Quarless stepped in and the role of the Packers’ tight end shrunk within the offense. Prior to going down, Finley was on pace for 84 receptions and 1,204 receiving yards–an average of five catches and 75 yards per game.

After Finley was lost for the season, Quarless caught two or fewer passes in 14 of the team’s remaining 16 games, including playoffs.

Fast forward to October 2013, and Finley, again, faces an uncertain future after suffering a bruised spinal cord Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Finley is out of intensive care and walking on his own, but he’ll undergo more tests before a decision is made on his future for this season and beyond.

According to sources via ESPN, there is “no specific timetable for Finley’s return to the field, but indications are that he likely will miss at least four to six weeks.” Ed Werder tweeted Tuesday that Finley’s injury was not believed to be career-threatening, although the Packers could consider placing him on the injured reserve sometime later this week.

Clearly, at this point, no decision has been made on Finley’s availability this season.

The most optimistic will point to 2010 and suggest that plugging Quarless into the lineup for Finley will be enough. But as things currently stand, the Packers’ group of wide receivers is certainly not as strong as it was in 2010.

Then, the Packers made up for losing Finley by featuring Greg Jennings as the No. 1 target, while Jordy Nelson was exceptional in the stretch run and into the playoffs. James Jones and Donald Driver held their own as the third and fourth options.

Right now, the Packers will likely head into their matchup in Minnesota with Nelson and Jarrett Boykin as their starting receivers. At tight end, it’ll be Quarless along with a combination of Brandon Bostick and others. Myles White will likely be the No. 3 receiver, like he was last week against Cleveland.