GREEN BAY — The Packers have some questions to answer at tight end with Jermichael Finley a free agent. There may be more than one answer.
Green Bay has depended largely on Finley to produce from the tight end spot since his sophomore season in the NFL. From 2009-2013, Finley had 217 catches in the regular season, good for 59% of the total production by all Packers tight ends. Factoring in the fact that Finley missed 24 games during that stretch, 30% of possible contests, Finley’s role is even more significant. In 2011, Finley accounted for 82% of the team’s catches by tight ends; in 2012 it was 79%.
With Finley still a free agent after a season-ending neck injury last year, the Packers may look to multiple players this season.
“[Tight end is] a deep position, another where we’ve had four guys in the past, kept four tight ends, could be 3, maybe, potentially, it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “This is a deep team. There will be a lot of great competition.”
During the team periods so far during training camp, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and rookie Richard Rodgers have taken most of the first team snaps at tight end.
“It’s an opportunity,” said Bostick, readying for his second NFL season. “Hopefully you make the plays, put that pressure on the coach to seize the opportunity. I definitely think the best guy will be the starting tight end.”
There are currently seven tight ends in camp. Those in the meeting room say they feel they’re surrounded by talent.
“I feel like it’s a wide open competition to see who can go out there and be the most consistent,” said tight end Jake Stoneburner, getting ready for his second season after appearing in nine games as a rookie. “Just got to keep on doing what I’ve been doing, see what happens in a couple weeks.”
Stoneburner, a college wide receiver at Ohio State, flashed his hands on a one-handed grab during Monday’s practice. Other players are focused on refining the more physical aspects of the position.
“Running routes, catching passes, that’s what I’m good at and have been doing,” said Bostick. “I’m more focused on blocking. That’s what I know I need to work on. I’m not going to work on my strengths; I’m going to work on my weaknesses.”
Mike McCarthy said Monday it’s too early to give an evaluation of the position group, noting tight ends have a lot of responsibilities. As Aaron Rodgers alluded to, McCarthy has kept a variable number of tight ends on his post-camp rosters. The players competing for those spots just hope they do enough.
“”I have no idea how it’s going to pan out,” said rookie tight end Colt Lyerla. “It’s really competitive. In order to make the team I’m going to have to play to the best of my abilities.”