We’ve officially reached the dead point of the Packers’ season.
You won’t see oversized guys moving in fridges and TVs into St. Norbert College dorms until July 25, so this is when things start to slow down a bit.
But until that day approaches, one of the most important positions heading into next season is tight end. And with Jermichael Finley’s status still uncertain, despite his nameplate still being attached in the locker room, the that job looks to be wide open.
And the more I examine it, why can’t Oregon standout Colt Lyerla be the next sure-handed tight end target for the next generation? He’s got impressive raw ability, has a knack to get open, maintains soft hands which is helpful for tough grabs in traffic and at 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, he has the frame that will keep on the field on running and passing downs.
Everyone knows that Lyerla left his Oregon teammates early last season and also pled guilty to cocaine. But during his two-and-a-half years in Eugene, he played for two head coaches, which isn’t exactly easy for any kid, let alone one that saw his parents divorce at age 9.
The Packers can give something that Lyerla has never had before or has never taken advantage of before: A proven, successful structure and an ear to listen. More than anything, Lyerla needs to be placed into a routine that works to give him confidence, which will earn him trust with Aaron Rodgers. And also he’s going to need to be able to find players on the team that will allow him to explain where he’s coming from, which will allow Lyerla to trust his teammates.
Lyerla has shown off his athleticism to the Packers this spring with amazing leaping catches that have even wowed some members of the defense. He’s got the ability. There’s no doubt about that, which is why he made The Play of the Week on SportsCenter in high school.
Amazingly enough, Lyerla is a lot like Finley when the Packers drafted him as a 21-year-old in 2008. Finley had plenty of physical attributes and filled up a scout’s notebook with superlatives, but he also publicly criticized one of the best Packers passers of all-time and didn’t accept his role on an offense that had lots of firepower.
In the same light, the undrafted 21-year-old Lyerla has been blessed with countless physical tools but hasn’t been able to harness those abilities due to his lousy decision-making.
Ted Thompson gets a lot of criticism, fair and unfair, from fans wanting him to do more or less for the organization. But adding a guy like Lyerla was a no-brainer. The upside is that he finds a brotherhood in the Packers that can equally trust each other and naturally, his abilities come shining through.
However, unlike Finley, don’t expect Lyerla to unleash a public lashing directed at Rodgers when he doesn’t get the ball. This team is on the verge of another deep playoff run, something that Finley failed to be a part of when he watched the Packers win Super Bowl XLV while he nursed an injured knee.
Is Lyerla a risk? Sure. He could potentially disrupt the locker room and possibly derail the early portion of the season. Let’s not forget that if he didn’t have his off-the-field issues, most scouts would have graded Lyerla as the No. 2 tight end in last spring’s draft.
Which makes the three-year $1.530 million deal, an easy steal. There is no guaranteed money, so Lyerla knows that he has to earn everything back — trust, respect, playing time — in order to earn it.——————
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn