Category Archives: Tight Ends

28

July

So far, Packers TE Colt Lyerla doesn’t look like the next Jimmy Graham

Colt Lyerla

Packers rookie free agent TE Colt Lyerla has struggled the first two days of camp.

When the Packers signed rookie free agent Colt Lyerla, there were a lot of people claiming the troubled tight end from Oregon was a first-round talent who went undrafted because of character concerns and legal issues.

Some people even used Lyerla in the same sentence as Jimmy Graham when talking about his talent and potential production.

Through two days of Packers training camp, reports indicate that Lyerla looks nothing like a first-round talent and shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same book as Graham, let alone sentence.

I thought the hype over Lyerla was way overblown. If he truly was a first-round talent that reminded scouts and GMs of Jimmy Graham, someone would have drafted him, regardless of his attitude and legal issues.

However, we’re only two days into camp. It’s way too early to write players off (or anoint them superstars). Hopefully Lyerla gets his feet under him and starts showing the tremendous talent many people assumed he had.

But for now, let’s give the Jimmy Graham comparisons and first-round talent proclamations a rest.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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28

July

Packers Xs and Os: What We Might See From McCarthy’s Up-Tempo Offense (Part 2)

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Will Aaron Rodgers be leading an up-tempo or no huddle offense in 2014? (Photo credit: Jeff Hanisch/USA Today).

Last week, we started to discuss some offensive concepts we might see rolled out this year if Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is true to his word about going up-tempo with three-down personnel.

This week, we’ll look at some basic passing route combinations I expect to see the Packers to use in an up-tempo, and possibly no huddle, game plan.

Of course, there is a huge combination of formations and routes an NFL offense can roll out to attack complex defenses. So, for this article, I’m making some very basic assumptions and this carries my standard disclaimer that this is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes only. Also, we’ll only look at some of the most common route combinations found in the west coast offense playbook.

Assumptions

  • The offense is in the 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers).
  • The offense is in a 2×2 alignment.
  • Even if a play is called in the huddle, sight adjustments at the line of scrimmage during the pre-snap read trump the huddle. The quarterback and receivers will adjust their routes to attack the coverage the defense is showing. This may be from a quarterback audible or automatic sight adjustments.
  • The defenses discussed here will only include man-to-man, man-to-man/blitz, cover 2, and cover 3.
  • Most of the route combinations will spread and attack the defense using the high/low principle to stress the cornerbacks.

Attack Keys

The quarterback and receivers must see the same thing in terms of how the defense is covering the field. Of utmost importance is reading the backpedal of the safeties. For simplicity sake, I’m assuming here that the quarterback and receivers have properly read that. Therefore, the keys of the routes will be reading and stressing the cornerbacks.

The route combinations described below are designed to attack the cornerbacks and make them make a decision and force them into a bad angle or coverage.

All-Purpose Route Combinations

It’s important that the offense has route packages that can attack any coverage the defense rolls out. Not only is the defense really good at disguising their coverage pre-snap, but sometimes the offense also wants to run a play before the defense can even align and get into a coverage. So, it’s good strategy to have route concepts that can attack either man-to-man coverage or zone coverage equally as effective.

4

July

Where To Overload The Green Bay Packers Roster

Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis

With a strong preseason, Abbrederis and Janis could force the Packer to carry six wide receivers

I want to start off by wishing everyone a happy 4th of July!  I was supposed to be born on the bicentennial and decided to arrive early so I’m forever reminded of my need for patience on this glorious day in American history!

Heading into training camp in just under a month, the Green Bay Packers and their coaching staff are likely already discussing possible scenarios that the team can emerge with when they head into the 2014 regular season.  However, it’s way too early to make any hard and fast decisions on who will and won’t be on the final 53-man roster, save for the obvious guys.

One part of that discussion that has already started some buzz is which positions the Packers may consider carrying an extra player.  There is no real requirement for how many players a team has to carry at a certain position, but there are some historical averages that most teams operate under.  Below are the usual number of players seen on a roster that employs a base 3-4 defense.  Again, these are averages and many teams have used different combinations in the past, based on need and talent level.

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Quarterback (2)

Running Back/Fullback (4)

Wide Receiver (5)

Tight End (4)

Offensive Line (9)

Defensive Line (8)

Linebacker (8)

Cornerback (6)

Safety (4)

Kicker (1)

Punter (1)

Long snapper (1)

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Keep in mind that while teams carry 53 men on their roster, only 45 are dressed on game day.  Teams need to be sure that they’re giving themselves enough depth at each position based on who is most likely to suit up on a regular basis.

One example of why is last season when the Packers were faced with the harsh reality that they didn’t have what they needed at the quarterback position behind Aaron Rodgers.  Heading into the regular season, they carried only one backup, Seneca Wallace, and had Scott Tolzien on the practice squad.  By the time Rodgers returned in week 17, Wallace was on injured reserve, Tolzien was promoted to the active roster and Matt Flynn was signed mid-season.  The Packers ended the season with three quarterbacks on the active roster and I fully expect the same this season.

2

July

What Packers Fans Should Know About Neck Injuries

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers, Packer People, Packers players, Johnny Jolly, Packers character, Packers off the fieldAt this point, Packers fans are all too aware of neck/cervical injuries and the effects and repercussions of returning to play after an injury and surgery.  At this point, Ted Thompson has had likely six neck injuries and four surgeries, all with various results, some positive but mostly negative. The latest was defensive linemen Johnny Jolly, who after battling a prescription drug addiction was a surprising addition to the Packers roster last year.  News recently came out that Jolly has been cleared by his doctors to return to play and now the question is whether or not the Packers will take him up on that offer.  However, many fans don’t really know the diagnosis, treatment or outcome of neck injuries and surgeries and it’s important to really understand the injury before deciding whether or not Jolly should or could return to the Packers.  As a matter of disclosure, I am not a doctor but an immunologist, so while I do have plenty of experience in the medical field I am not qualified to present a medical opinion; below is research I have done from a variety of medical journals and other sources.

Packer players who suffered a neck injury under the Ted Thompson regime

1. Terrance Murphy: Murphy suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit by Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis on a fumble recovery off of a return and was later discovered to have spinal stenosis, which ultimately ended his career.

2. Jeremy Thompson: Thompson suffered a neck injury during a practice after sustaining a collision with running back Kregg Lumpkin, who from reports suffered temporary paralysis on the field, necessitating the need for an ambulance and an overnight stay at Bellin Hospital.  Thompson subsequently also announced his retirement after the injury.  On a completely unrelated note, Thompson is now a medical student at the University of North Carolina, so the stereotype of football players being dumb jocks isn’t always true.

3. Nick Collins: Perhaps the most famous Packer to suffer a neck injury, Collins collided with Carolina running back Johnathan Stewart from above and suffered temporary paralysis. Collins spent the night at a hospital in Carolina before rejoining the team on IR.  Collins then had single fusion neck surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebrae together.  Collins was subsequently released by the Packers and while he hasn’t officially retired, no team has been willing to even try him out, which indicates the severity of the injury.

28

June

Cory’s Corner: Colt Lyerla worth the risk for the Packers

We’ve officially reached the dead point of the Packers’ season.

Colt Lyerla was taken by the Packers as undrafted rookie. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds.

Colt Lyerla was taken by the Packers as an undrafted rookie. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds in addition to a 39-inch vertical.

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.

27

June

Packers See Dramatic Turn at Tight End

Richard Rodgers

High expectations have been set for Rodgers in 2014. Is he the Packers next starting tight end?

At this time last season, the Green Bay Packers were preparing for training camp and the position battles that would ensue.  Tight end was not among them, as they had veteran Jermichael Finley in the fold and the annual talk about his having a “breakout” season was in full swing.

In 2012, Finley had just over 60 catches for two touchdowns.  Hardly the kind of numbers you would expect from a guy who was regularly hyped as a focal point in the Packers offense.

Through six games last season, Finley had 25 catches and three touchdowns.  He missed most of week three against the Cincinnati Bengals due to a concussion so those stats actually came in just five games.

Finley’s form seemed to look closer to the version we saw in 2009 versus that over the past three seasons.  He seemed primed to finally achieve the infamous “p” word that has followed him throughout his career:  potential.

That’s when catastrophe struck.  Mid-way through their week seven game against the Cleveland Browns, Finley took a shot from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson that left him motionless on the Lambeu Field turf.  Finley was taken off the field and immediately to a local medical center for evaluation of his spine.  His season was over and the Packers were facing a big loss at the tight end position.

Fast forward to today and we know that Finley has been medically cleared by the surgeon who performed the surgery to fuse his spine.  Still, Finley’s future remains a question mark, as no NFL team has cleared him to resume his career and he remains a free agent.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy did speak about Finley during recent organized team activities (OTA’s) and, in essence, said that Finley is a free agent but that he sees him as a Packer and wishes him the best.  The known entity that was Finley surely still intrigues the Packers, but I’m one of those in the camp that doubt his return to the team.  Not this season or any, for that matter.

Under the assumption that Finley won’t be back, that leaves the Packers in the midst of their search for their next starting tight end.  With Finley, the Packers had a piece to their offense that they could feature and build quite a bit of the scheme around.  Behind Finley, that’s not so much the case.

17

June

Breaking Down the Odds on the Packers’ Tight Ends for the 2014-2015 Season

Packers Rookie TE Richard Rodgers

Packers Rookie TE Richard Rodgers

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.

Anthony Quarless

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

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.

Colt Lyerla