NFL Football is coming, folks. Catch a few World Cup games, maybe nap through a baseball game or two, and boom: the preseason starts. In the meantime, it’s time to breakdown one of the most interesting positions for the Packers ahead of the coming season: tight end.
After the 2014 NFL Draft, Green Bay is solidly amongst the favorites for the coming season, with the fifth-best 2015 Super Bowl odds. But after Jermichael Finley was only able to play six games in 2013, putting up 300 yards and three scores, the Pack’s management has left door open for a new tight end to step in as a legitimate short route threat.
With that in mind, here is a look at the three names that could define the discussion for the green and gold going into the preseason.
Green Bay is coming into training camp with a variety of question marks at tight end that could end up producing in a major way in the NFL. Quarless is not one of them.
We all know what he can do. Quarless started 10 games last season (32 catches, two touchdowns) after missing 2012 due to injury. He can block, and stay on the field in a variety of situations. His dependability made him an asset that as many as eight teams were interested in this offseason before the Packers resigned him.
Quarless’ general consistency puts Mike McCarthy and his staff in the position to be a bit more risky with the depth chart below Quarless in an effort to find a more dynamic offensive threat.
Richard Rodgers is the most reliable bet for the future. The University of California product brings a so-so college resume to the table, having put up 39 receptions for 608 yards in 2013. Still, Rodgers will have every opportunity to succeed in camp, as the Packers picked Rodgers below the rank many draft experts expected him to land at.
Pessimism aside, Rodgers has earned the respect of perhaps the most important voice in the discussion: the pre-eminent Rodgers in Packers territory. Aaron Rodgers has been repeatedly quoted as loving what the rookie tight end can do, and that enthusiasm alone would be enough to push most contenders onto the opening day roster.
Taking advantage of the Packers’ strong organizational culture and locker room leadership, Ted Thompson took a flyer on the troubled Colt Lyerla, and the longshot may be the team’s best chance at making an impact in the 2014 season. Lylera’s off-field struggles with attitude and drug possession, have been widely-documented, but his achievements are less talked about.
The bruising Lyerla ran a third-best 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine, and had the highest and broadest jumps amongst tight ends. Even if he did quit the Oregon Ducks after being suspended, the influence of one of the strongest organizations in professional sports may be the difference between this raw physical talent throwing his career away and taking a chance to be a playmaker in the NFL.
All told, it’s a positive outlook for the Packers tight ends coming into the 2014 season. At worst, Quarless is a serviceable starter. At best, Rodgers or Lyerla impress their way into playing time and help improve the Packers 2014 odds in the process.