When the Green Bay Packers put together a winning season, it seems they have great production from their tight end.
Whether it's Mark Chmura, Keith Jackson, Bubba Franks, or Ed "Toolbox" West (Just Kidding), it's apparent the Packers' offense is at another level over the years when the tight end is frequently involved.
Even a season ago during the 6-10 disaster, the Packers struggled to involve Donald Lee, a tight end who enjoyed a solid season in 2008 for a 13-3 Packers squad.
Ranking 20th among tight ends in the NFL in receptions with a meager 39 and 29th in yards with 303, Donald Lee took a step back in 2008 in terms of production from his previous year. In 2007, Lee racked up nearly 50 receptions along with 600 yards receiving. That's the type of numbers the Packers need from their starting tight end in 2009.
One perception is that with Tory Humphrey and Jermichael Finley increasingly involved, Lee's numbers were certain to decrease. This theory, however, deems false because the overall numbers at tight end were marginally down from a year ago as well. In 2007, the threesome of Lee, Bubba Franks, and Ryan Krause managed to haul in 68 passes for 718 yards as compared to 2008's trio of Lee, Finley and Humphrey who collected 56 receptions for 539 yards.
These numbers seem relatively close in comparison, but regardless it seems more consistency is needed from the position. While Lee is a solid tight end, Humphrey has limited experience and Finley is young and un-polished, the group needs to perform better next season.
It seems like Humphrey has some talent, but injury issues and inconsistencies have resulted in limited production and playing time from the 4th year veteran.
While Finley appears to have all of the physical tools to become a great receiving tight end, will he take the next step in the offseason? It took the entire season for the fade route to work with Finley, as he caught a touchdown against the Lions in the season finale. Maturity issues also are a concern for the 21-year-old as he allocated blame through the media after a game last season.
Maybe it's because the Packers' defense seems to get torched by mediocre tight ends, but I feel like this would take the offense to another level. Having a legitimate receiving tight end threat for short yardage situations would be very helpful.
Whether they add a draft pick, choose a diamond in the rough acquisition, or a current player steps up, I find it important for this position to increase its' productivity.