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Point of Veau: Aside from Finley, Packers Tight Ends are a Mess

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Point of Veau: Aside from Finley, Packers Tight Ends are a Mess

There's two weeks left of training camp to right the ship, but as things currently stand, the tight end position in Green Bay is a mess beyond Jermichael Finley.

No doubt about it, Finley has been everything the Packers could have hoped for and more as the start of the season dawned in 2013.

Finley's been a humble, hard worker that's avoided headlines in the media by cutting back on his outspoken nature. Even more importantly, he's been a solid playmaking force, both in practice and through two preseason games.

This past Saturday's contest against the St. Louis Rams represents Finley's high-water mark when he led the team with 78 receiving yards on four receptions, three of them converted into first downs.

Finley looked to be a security blanket for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, which has become all the more important in the absence of wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, both of whom have been sidelined by injuries.

For sure, Finley will have to continue his string of solid play into the regular season and curb the drops that have plagued him in recent years if he's to prove he's truly emerging as one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

No matter how Finley performs, however, the situation behind him on the depth chart is murky at best.

To be fair, injuries are partially to blame. Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor and Matthew Mulligan have all been limited to one extent or another by various ailments since camp opened.

But injuries also can't be used as an excuse. The backup tight ends on the Packers roster simply aren't getting the job done.

It's a far cry from the start of the 2011 season when the Packers surprisingly kept five ends on their 53-man roster. To go along with Finley, Quarless was emerging in his second season, D.J. Williams and Taylor were promising young rookies and Tom Crabtree was the jack of all trades, filling any role asked of him.

To carry any more than three or possibly four tight ends in 2013 would be wasteful, considering that apart from Finley, none have yet proven to be anything more than fringe NFL players.

Since 2011, Crabtree left the team as a free agent this offseason, and Matthew Mulligan was signed in his place to take over the role as primary blocking tight end.

Mulligan would figure to be a lock for a roster spot, although his current elbow injury suffered during the second preseason game throws his immediate status in doubt. Mike McCarthy has only said Mulligan will be "challenged" to play the third preseason game against the Seahawks, but has declined to say anything beyond that.

When healthy, Quarless might be the most complete tight end on the roster, but he's been riddled with injuries dating back to when he tore the ACL and MCL in his knee in December of 2011 and forced him to miss than more than an entire season of football.

A recent quad injury only set Quarless back further and prevented him from playing in the Packers' first two preseason games. He returned to practice this week, not a moment too late.

Time is running out for Quarless to prove he's not only healthy but also a better option than the other tight ends on the roster, which has not exactly been an imposing group.

D.J. Williams is now entering his third year in the NFL with only nine career receptions to his name. He's gained a reputation for putting together impressive training camps, but his success has not translated to the regular season.

In Saturday's Rams game, Williams failed to haul in a downfield pass from quarterback Graham Harrell and also missed a block on the field goal protection unit that led to a partially blocked kick.

Williams may have developed into a better blocker than most would expect out of a 6-2, 245 lb. tight end, but he still can't be considered a plus-blocker amongst his peers.

Taylor has made the Packers' roster for two consecutive seasons thanks primarily to his role on special teams, but he too has underwhelmed on offense with only one reception in each of 2011 and 2012.

Like Quarless, Taylor also missed the first two preseason games this season with a knee injury, but he's returned to practice and would seem to be ready for a return to a game environment once again.

There's only so many roster spots that will be set aside for special teams demons, and in order to stick around, Taylor has to prove he's improved on the offensive side of the football over the past three years, something he has yet to show.

After hauling in three passes in the most recent exhibition game, Brandon Bostick is trending upward, and the Packers probably want to show they didn't keep him on the practice squad for an entire season for nothing.

But at this point in his development, Bostick would appear to be a poor man's Jermichael Finley who can excel as a receiver but not necessarily as a blocker. As long as Finley is around to fill a similar role, however, it's doubtful Bostick would ever see much playing time in the regular season.

The Packers may not want to lose him, but it's difficult to keep a player on the roster who doesn't figure to see much playing time and is not a core special teams player. The practice squad could be an option for Bostick for a second consecutive season.

Jake Stoneburner also might be heading in the right direction, but it's important to note that he's made exactly one impressive play as a professional football player when he grabbed a touchdown in the Rams game. It's doubtful he's ready to make the 53-man roster at this point in his career, but he too might be kept around for some extra seasoning.

With only four more practices and two more games left before the Packers are required to trim their roster to 53 players by Aug. 31, time is of the essence for the team's tight ends to start turning heads.

There's seven tight ends in Green Bay right now, a number that could be more than cut in half if they fail to impress.

This column is an extension of post from Sunday, evaluating each position on the Packers roster.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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jim's picture

My observation of the Packer roster agrees with your article, Brian. Though Mulligan and Taylor don't fill the bill as ideal tight ends, they do fit need as role players. With Finley being healthy, I am not sure how much activity any other tight end would see during the season. Mulligan would make for another good offensive lineman when a run is needed and Taylor has performed well as a special teams player. My hope was that Quarless would be healthy enough to be able to field two good tight ends when desired. I, too, see no more than 4 tightends making the final cut. I am curious as to what insight you have over the defensive line battle. There seems to be a good deal of depth at dline and cornerbacks this season. Any surprises?

Chris's picture

Brian,

I think you might be overexaggerating this issue with the tight ends just a bit.

Finley aside, I think the Packers keep Mulligan, Quarless, & Bostick. If they keep five, I think Taylor makes it purely on ST play, but I don't thin he's worth it, personally. If you keep the four I suggested, then you have the best playmaker, the two best blockers in Quarless & Mulligan, and the possible heir apparent to Finley who carries tremendous upside. It appears Williams & Taylor are who they have shown, and Stoneburner is PS eligible, and probably won't be aggresively sought after.

The tight ends may not be stellar, but if there is uncertainty in their depth, they should be able to handle it considering their use of multiple wide receivers, and improved running back depth. Look at how they did in 2010 after all.

I'm not confident that they back ups are all locks to be difference makers catching the ball, but I thin they can all contribute.

Thanks, keep up the good work. I listen to Railbird Central every week!

Chris

Pack Morris's picture

Stop... Havner Time!

Point Packer's picture

From a personnel perspective, I was not at all bummed when Crabtree departed. Now I'm bummed.

Evan's picture

Ditto.

I had the recent Bucs game on in the background the other night and heard his name called a few times. Seems to be doing well.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

I saw that too.

Point Packer's picture

What's Chmura doing these days? Besides hanging out at post prom parties.

Stroh's picture

He covers the Packers last I heard for a station in Milwaukee. That's the last I heard of him anyway.

MarkinMadison's picture

Chewy does a Sunday morning radio show in Milwaukee for two hours. As much as I've disrespected the man over the years for certain issues, I really do enjoy listening to him. He brings a good perspective to the broadcast. You can find the podcasts at espnwisconsin.com

BrianD's picture

For somebody with the reputation of being a good blocker, Crabtree was NOT in fact a good blocker for the Packers in 2012. I'm really glad he's gone and the team has upgraded from him with Mulligan this year. If Bostic makes the team, the Packers will also replace his extremely rare "surprise" element on offense. Go Pack!

Stroh's picture

Crabtree was perceived to be a good blocker as Finley is perceived to be a bad blocker. Finley is a little better than perceived and Crabtree isn't as good as he was perceived.

The TKstinator's picture

Finley: receiver
Bostick: receiver
Mulligan: blocker
Taylor: ST
Quarless: most well-rounded but "always" injured?
Williams: ?

AmI leaving anything out?

Icebowler's picture

I think Williams gets cut. I wish we could stash both Bostick and Stoneburner on the practice squad but I believe there will only be room for one TE on the P-squad. Taylor my also be cut depending on decisions for other positions.

ben's picture

Finley, Quarless, Mulligan, Stoneburner, and bostick all are on the 53. Stoneburner and bostick have too much upside and I don't think they'd make it to the practice squad. DJ was a mid-round pick just a couple of years ago, he was awarded the best TE of that draft class. A couple pre-season's ago some were saying he may have the best hands on the team. He's not a bad blocker & has been developing with the best organization & QB in the league. DJ has value and will be traded to the Ravens for a guy that can return kicks.

There is a history of recent pre-season trades between the 2.

ben's picture

Then....we play and develope 5 TEs off the 53. Allowing Finley the freedom to play some WR if needed. He really is a terrible blocker anyway. Then after this year we franchise finley for TE money and proceed to play him at WR. Much like the 49ers are doing with Vernon davis. And Vernon davis can actually block, finley can not.

pooch's picture

HA and all those dumb asses in cheesehead nation wanted to dump Finley

ben's picture

QB: Rodgers, Harrell
RB: Harris, Lacey, Green, Franklin, Kuhn
WR: Cobb, Nelson, Jones, Boykins, walker
TE: Finley, Mulligan, Quarless, bostick, stoneburner
T: Bakhtiari, Barclay, Newhouse, Datko
G: Sitton, Lang, Taylor
C: EDS, Von Roten
S: Burnett, Hyde, McMillian, bush
CB: House, Shields, Heyward, Tramon
OLB: Matthews, Perry, Moses, mulumba
ILB Hawk, Brad, francois, barrington
DL: Datone, Jolly, Neal, Danials, Raji, Pickett, boyd
ST: crosby, goode, masthay, & a kick returner

Practice squad: coleman, banjo, white, palmer, johnson, lewis, pease

DJ williams traded to the ravens for Kick return prospect. Hopefully with md jennings. I can't believe he's still on the team. Unbelievable.

PUP: Sharrod & Richardson

Evan's picture

Having zero backup safeties sure would be a bold move.

Mr.Bigg's picture

My head is full of cheese as the day drips down my frontal lobe- my thoughts are fondue. Can a man have a thought that is truly unique?
This fog, this veil must be cleared away for me to see the real reality.

Fish . Crane's picture

that's why God grows grass, Mr. Bigg.

Bostick looked like he blocked just fine in St. Louis..but people see him everyday..... Worrying about back up tight ends...Oh, these are the days my friends.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Great article Brian.

I am thinking right now that they will keep 4 TE's.
Finley, Mulligan, Bostick, and the last spot will come down to either Quarless, Williams, or Taylor.
I really am not sure which one will win it. I would have guessed Quarless but he needs to stay healthy and prove he can play. Taylor I think needs to show more on offense, and Williams needs to become more consistent.
I think Stoneburner will be put on the practice squad.

Lucky953's picture

I agree with you on the first three RC. Bostick has a lot of upside. Mulligan is a big upgrade in the run game and thats why they signed him. Williams needs to find employment elsewhere. Quarless is a big ? due to injury: he's a medical decision. Taylor is the Jarrett Bush of the offense: pure ST who can fill a positional hole in a pinch.

George Steinbrenner's picture

Hey, Stoneburner stole my name and Americanized it!

George Steinbrenner's picture

Costanza, I love these Calzones!

keeley2's picture

I can't help but think that the optimism of a real running game will affect the tight end position more than any other (from a skill position perspective). Going with 3-4-5 tight ends might be just fine providing they can run block for Harris, Lacey, et al. I would hope dump passes to the tight ends are a thing of the past (except via play action which just might work with a revitalized run game). GO PACK!

packsmack25's picture

I think the battles between the RBs, TEs, and LBs all come down to who plays best on special teams. TT always has and always will lean that way.

Lars's picture

Finley, Williams (sorry), Mulligan (if healthy) and Taylor. Quarless is just too injury prone, and Bostick will have to put Williams off the roster. Williams' stone hands drive us crazy and for good reason, but he'll get every opportunity to stick. I like Stoneburner, but he's going to the PS if anything.

packsmack25's picture

I don't think you can call Quarless "injury prone" just because he had one devastating knee injury and had a pulled quad in the preseason. Honestly, I think everyone has made him out to be some fragile guy, but he got hit and his KNEE WENT SIDEWAYS! It was a freak injury, and a quad pull is something that happens all of the time to guys in training camp. It's not like he's got some enormous list of injuries that he's suffered in his past.

Lucky953's picture

That's very true, but it's hard to give a roster spot to a guy based on his play two years ago.

Stroh's picture

IMO Williams and Bostick are fighting for one job between them since their skills are very similar. Right now I would give the job to Bostick based on what I've heard and seen so far. Williams has had 3 seasons to prove himself but hasn't acquitted himself very well when given opportunities. I'll take Bostick over Williams any day.

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