One of the biggest question marks when the Packers unpacked their duffel bags at the end of July was tight end.
And that hasn’t changed much.
Only now, it may be a bit of a battle in terms of which guys the Packers keep.
Everyone, myself included, had Andrew Quarless slotted to trot out Week 1 with the starting crew in Seattle. Quarless started 10 games when Jermichael Finley went down with his season-ending and likely career-ending neck injury. He played OK by tallying over 300 receiving yards and a couple touchdowns.
This is Quarless’ fourth year with the Packers, but he is not playing like a trusty veteran by having a terrible camp with numerous drops. And to make matters worse, the Packers just inked him to a two-year deal this past March.
The guy that has virtually come out of nowhere to practice with the No. 1 team and put his name on the top line is Brandon Bostick. His shiftiness and playmaking has been surprising in camp — even to the point where players have compared the one-time college wideout to the dynamic Finley.
“He’s got similar body movements and route-running abilities,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “When he caught that short pass in the flat and cut it back, he looked a lot like Jermichael on film.”
That’s pretty high praise from one of the game’s best quarterbacks about a guy that has only played in 11 NFL games. The Packers anxiously await someone to take advantage of open creases over the middle, which will allow Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to operate with more space on the outside. And if Bostick can continue to learn, prove his vibrant abilities and get better as a blocker, the 2014 price tag of $495,000 would be a steal.
The two guys that have the physical tools are Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla. The 6-foot-4, 257-pound Rodgers is a guy that nobody wants to tackle, but he isn’t going to outrun anyone either. Lyerla is absolutely electric. He will sacrifice his body to make a retweet-worthy grab in traffic. However, everybody knows about the skeletons that have lurked in his closet, basement and under his bed. But if Lyerla comes back strong after tearing his MCL and PCL, the Packers could unearth a hidden tight end gem.
So, where do the Packers go this year? The best bet is Bostick only because he has gotten smarter and it appears the game has slowed down for him. Quarless is a huge disappointment so far. I highly doubt Quarless doesn’t make the team, but even if Quarless comes on strong at the end of camp he may have already lost his chance to start. And I doubt that the Packers would waste a third-round pick by not keeping Richard Rodgers. Lyerla could be the odd man out, but of course the Packers know that the moment they cut him is the moment other teams hustle to add him to theirs.
The tight end position is very vital especially for this team because of how deep safeties play in the Cover 2 vs. Aaron Rodgers. The middle of the field is open and it’s up to Green Bay tight ends to run crisp routes, catch the football and turn upfield — without coughing it up.
Depending on how this position plays could very well determine how deep this team goes in the playoffs. The Super Bowl team of 2010, which saw Finley only play five games, had the tight ends catch 16 percent of Green Bay’s total receptions. Last year that number crept up to 19 percent and Finley played only one more game than 2010. The tight end is getting used more and more and no matter how many weapons the Packers have on the outside or at running back, Green Bay desperately needs this unit to come through.——————
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