Jermichael Finley: Overrated or Underperforming?

Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley drops the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Sean Jones defends.

This season, there seems to be no other Green Bay Packers player more controversial than tight end Jermichael Finley. In the final year of his contract, coming off a season spent mostly on injured reserve, he has been under intense scrutiny by fans. Number one, can he stay healthy? And number two, can he be the offensive juggernaut he was predicted to be?

I think we’ve found out the answer to the first question: yes, he can stay healthy. He hasn’t missed a single game all season.

It’s that other question, though, that has fans arguing the most.

While I was sitting in the upper deck of MetLife stadium on Sunday, I couldn’t believe the number of passes I watched Jermichael Finley drop. After his third one, both my older brother and I looked at each other with mutual frustration. And in the heat of the moment, I even called for him to be taken out of the game.

This, of course, is why I am not a coach. Finley’s first-down reception in the Packers’ final possession was a crucial jump start to the game-winning drive. He obviously has the talent and ability to make those big plays, and we’ve seen them all season.

But we’ve also seen the drops.

According to STATS LLC., Jermichael Finley has 8 dropped passes so far this season, tying him for sixth place in the NFL. (He’s third in the NFC behind only Roddy White and DeSean Jackson.) No other Green Bay receiver has more than three drops this year, providing a stark contrast to this issue.

Additionally, TeamRankings.com has Finley listed at just a 62.7% catch rate, ranking him 17th among tight ends and 70th among all receivers (who are on pace for at least 30 receptions or 60 pass targets). Guys like Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Fred Davis, and Jason Witten seem to be more dominating – at least statistically – than Finley. They’ve outdone him in catch rate, targets, and total yardage, and both Graham and Gronkowski each have more touchdowns.

Isn’t he supposed to be this monster tight end who should be impossible to defend? Haven’t some of us been touting him as the best tight end in the league?



Packers Film Study: How Green Bay’s Offense Can Attack the San Diego Chargers

In anticipation of the Packers’ Week 9 matchup with the San Diego Chargers, I sat down with some tape of the Chargers in 2011 to decide how the Packers might go about attacking their defense. This is what I found:

Manipulating the safety in the red zone

Here we see Tom Brady and the Patriots offense in a 1st-and-10 look from the Chargers 14-yard-line. It’s a two-tight end, one-back set, with Rob Gronkowski to the top of screen and Wes Welker in the slot to the left of the formation. Aaron Hernandez lines up in the right slot with Deion Branch out wide. The Chargers combat this look with three down lineman, four linebackers and four defensive backs—their standard 3-4 personnel. They show man coverage and keep Eric Weddle as the single safety high. Bob Sanders, the other safety, lines up in the face of Hernandez. Brady motions Gronkowski back into the line to help in protection, but the motion also confirms to Brady the man coverage look as Donald Butler follows. At this point, Brady knows exactly where he wants to go with the football in his pre-snap read.

In the coaches tape, you can clearly see the man coverage. Brady initially locks on to the left to Welker, who is running an 8-yard square out. That forces Weddle to take two or three steps to his right to honor that look, which keeps him in no-mans-land for all three receivers. At this point, it’s up to Brady which receiver scores the touchdown. Welker has his man beat to the left, but Hernandez has a clear size mismatch on safety Bob Sanders. With Sanders’ back turned to the throw and no help in the area, Brady gives Hernandez a chance to make a play on the ball in the air. The Patriots tight end makes a rather routine catch in the end zone for a touchdown. If the Chargers give Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this look in the red zone, it’s going to be similarly easy score. The way Rodgers uses his eyes to manipulate safeties, like Brady does here, makes this play grand larceny.

Use of playaction

Let’s go back to the coaches tape for a 1st-and-1o play from the Patriots own 18-yard-line. New England again lines up in a two-tight end, one-back set with Welker out wide to the right of the formation and Chad Ochocinco to the left. The Chargers counter with their base 3-4 look. The offensive set and down suggests a run.