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.



Packers News: Team signs TE Stoneburner to active roster

The Packers have promoted tight end Jake Stoneburner to the active roster.

The Packers have promoted tight end Jake Stoneburner to the active roster.

According to Jason La Canfora’s official Twitter account, the Green Bay Packers have signed tight end Jake Stoneburner to the active roster following their recent rash of injuries.

Last week against the Baltimore Ravens, the Packers lost wide receiver Randall Cobb for six-to-eight weeks with a fractured fibula. Fellow wide receiver James Jones suffered a sprained MCL and appears questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

Stoneburner’s promotion to the 53-man roster gives the Packers five tight ends and three wide receivers, including Jones.

An athletic rookie tight end from Ohio State, Stoneburner was often split out wide in Urban Meyer’s offense. He clocked a 4.53 forty-yard dash at Ohio State’s Pro Day Mar. 8, which would suggest an ability to stretch the field; however, Stoneburner only caught 53 passes in his four-year collegiate career.

In his junior season in 2011, seven of Stoneburner’s were for touchdowns.

Without Cobb in the slot, starting tight end Jermichael Finley will likely be split out more often than usual with Andrew Quarless filling Finley’s shoes as an in-line blocker. Finley, at 6’5″ 250 pounds, isn’t capable of taking on all of Cobb’s responsibilities in the Packers’ offense, but at this point, he may be the team’s best option to stretch the field from the slot.

Last week, the Browns signed wide receiver Charles Johnson off the Packers’ practice squad, leaving Myles White and the recently re-signed Reggie Dunn as the team’s two wide receivers on the practice squad.

As of right now, the Packers have not announced the necessary roster move to promote Stoneburner, but one would figure that Cobb is a logical candidate for the I.R./Designated to Return list.

The Packers reportedly tried to sign wide receiver Tavarres King off the Denver Broncos’ practice squad, but King has since been promoted to Denver’s active roster. More moves could be on the horizon for the Packers, but for now, it looks like they’ll go heavy at tight end and light at wide receiver for the near future.



Surviving Sunday: News, Notes and Analysis from Packers Preseason

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Graham Harrell cut
Somebody alert the Minnesota Vikings, another Packers player has hit the open market. Reports are out there that Graham Harrell is getting cut, meaning Vince Young has won the Packers’ backup QB job. The Packers are effed if Vince Young needs to play for an extended stretch of games, but probably not as effed as they would’ve been with Harrell. I thought Harrell would come around to at least be a Matt Flynn type of backup, but obviously, I was wrong. His accuracy went from bad to worse, and that ultimately did him in.

Knowledge of offense?
The only thing Harrell had going for him was his knowledge of the offense. I suppose it would be nice for Aaron Rodgers to have a backup that is familiar with the offense and can offer insight when needed, but that knowledge didn’t make up for Harrell’s poor play. Besides, the Packers have a QB coach, offensive coordinator, head coach and who knows how many other people that know this offense just as well, if not better than Rodgers. If Vince Young is playing catchup in the classroom, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

Meat wagon makes the rounds at Lambeau
Five more Packers were struck down with injuries in Friday’s loss to the Seachickens. Casey Hayward, Brad Jones, Morgan Burnett and Jarvis Reed left the game on defense. On offense, DuJuan Harris re-injured his knee. Of the five, Burnett worries me the most. Who’s going to play safety if Burnett is on the shelf?

Sherrod’s family speaks
Since the Packers and Derek Sherrod aren’t providing any updates on why it’s taking so long for the big tackle to return from a broken leg, Bob McGinn contacted Sherrod’s family to try and learn more about what’s going on. Turns out Sherrod has had to deal with many challenges on his road to recovery. I don’t get why the Packers and/or Sherrod have been so secretive about the injury and recovery process. I get that all teams are paranoid about releasing injury news, but what good has that paranoia done the Packers in Sherrod’s case? All it’s done is frustrated the fan base and caused some misguided people to question Sherrod’s work ethic or toughness as he tries to return.



Save my Seat on the Jermichael Finley Bandwagon

I’m off the Jermichael Finley bandwagon, but could return shortly.

Every offseason I’m as big a supporter of Packers tight end Jermichael Finley as there is.

While many fans get frustrated about what Finley says, or his (lack of) production based on his (perceived) talent, I point out the value that Finley does bring to the Packers’ offense, and remind people that he’s young and probably hasn’t reached his full potential yet.

I backed off that stance this offseason, at least somewhat. I didn’t join the large group of torch and pitchfork carrying Finley haters, but I no longer have a shot at getting elected president of the Finley fan club, either.

I suppose you could say that I got off the Finley bandwagon, but asked the person next to me to save my seat in case I decided to hop back on.

We hear all the typical training camp cliches about Finley every offseason: He’s more mature. He’s grown up. He’s more focused. He looks great in camp. He’s ready to break out. He’s physical. He’s working as hard as ever. This is the year. Finally. No, really — this time it really is his year.

We’re hearing all those things again this training camp. Even Mike McCarthy is piling the love on J-Mike.

I suppose hearing the typical training camp talk about a player being “in the best shape of his life” or being “more focused” is better than hearing that a player is fat and distracted by the new season of “Duck Dynasty.” But forgive me for tuning out all that talk about Finley this offseason. I’m not going to buy any of it until it transfers to actual results.

I won’t be at all surprised if Finley does, in fact, break out this season. I suppose it wouldn’t shock me, either, if he flops. Either way, I won’t be patting myself on the back, telling the world “I told you so.”

A lot of Packers fans are sick of Finley talking. I’m sick of hearing myself and others talk about Finley, so I’m going to zip it. It’s time to stop hoping, prognosticating, predicting, forecasting, wishing, and praying for Finley to break out. Let’s just sit back, watch, and see if he actually does.



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 Eyes on Jermichael Finley in 2013

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Jermichael Finley carries himself with a swagger; he’s been the “big man on campus” ever since high school.

Before committing to the University of Texas to play tight end, Finley was offered a dual scholarship by the University of Arizona, which would have allowed him to play both basketball and football at the D1 level. But as a freshman at Texas, Finley, then just 205 pounds, redshirted and learned the tight end position behind David Thomas, who is now a backup tight end for the New Orleans Saints.

But when Thomas graduated, an opportunity presented itself for the redshirt freshman Finley. In 2006, Finley caught 31 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns–all three totals set new school records for a freshman tight end.

As a third-year sophomore, Finley improved upon his individual numbers, racking up 45 catches for 575 yards. The Longhorns went 20-6 in Finley’s two years in Austin before the talented tight end decided to declare for the 2008 NFL Draft.

The Green Bay Packers snagged Finley with the No. 91 overall pick, throwing a 21-year-old Finley into a close-knit locker room that was looking to rally around quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his first season as the starter.

But the confident, occasionally outspoken rookie was in for a rude awakening, as he barely touched the field. Incumbent starter Donald Lee was coming off the best season of his career, in which he caught 48 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns; he remained the starter during Finley’s rookie year.

But in Week 9 in Tennessee, Rodgers called Finley’s number. Facing a fourth-and-one in the first quarter against the then-undefeated Titans, Rodgers went to Finley on a back-shoulder throw.

The two were not on the same page, the pass was incomplete, and the Titans took over on downs. Finley was asked about the play after the game.

“I think he should have led me a little more, well a lot more,” Finley said. “Really, he didn’t throw it good at all, to be honest. He knows my game, coaches know my game. I’m more like a run and jump (receiver). I’m really not no back shoulder or whatever he had going on back there. They just have to know what kind of player I am and use me in that aspect of the game.”



2013 NFL Draft Preview: Ranking Packers Tight End Prospects

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert

Notre Dame TE Tyler Eifert

The 2013 NFL Draft offers a deep crop of tight ends, headlined by Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz. Both players can do everything NFL teams ask tight ends to do, but the class is much deeper than just the top two.

A handful of NFL-ready tight ends figure to come off the board on day two. And with the uncertain future of Jermichael Finley in Green Bay, the Packers could be in the market for a tight end at some point in this year’s draft.

Let’s take a closer look at the top ten tight ends in this year’s draft. There aren’t many surprises, although one player in my top ten wasn’t even invited to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine.

1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame (6-5 250)

  • Draft stock: Late 1st
  • 40 time: 4.68, Vertical: 35.5″, 225-pound bench: 22 reps
  • Two-year starter, averaged 55.5 receptions, 713.5 yards and 4.5 touchdowns per year as a starter.
  • Backed up current Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph as a sophomore but still managed to find the field, recording 27 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns.

2. Zach Ertz, Stanford (6-5 249)

  • Draft stock: Late 1st / Early 2nd
  • 40 time: 4.76, Vertical: 30.5″, 225-pound bench: 24 reps
  • One-year starter, caught 66 passes for 837 yards and six touchdowns as the starter in 2012.
  • Until his senior season, Ertz played behind current Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener at Stanford. As a reserve during his sophomore and junior campaign, Ertz caught a combined 43 passes for 536 yards and nine touchdowns.

3. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati (6-4 255)

  • Draft stock: 2nd Round
  • Kelce did not work out at the NFL Scouting Combine.
  • One-year starter, caught 45 passes for 722 yards and eight touchdowns as the starter in 2012.
  • Caught 13 passes as a junior in 2011, after being forced to sit out the 2010 season due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.

4. Gavin Escobar, San Diego St. (6-5 254)

  • Draft stock: 3rd Round
  • 40 time: 4.84, Vertical: 32″, 225-pound bench: DNP
  • Three year-starter, averaged 40.6 catches for 548.6 yards and 5.6 touchdowns per year.
  • Appeared in all 13 games as a junior but started only six after a midseason hand injury, started the final 12 games of his sophomore season.