A Career Year Awaits Bennett

Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett.  It still sounds crazy to say and hear.  The circumstances of his signing in early March also contribute to that, with Bennett surprisingly signing in the middle of their contract negotiations with Jared Cook.

Bennett instantly becomes one of the centerpieces of the Packers offense.  Entering his 10th NFL season and fifth team, Bennett clearly understands how the NFL works and what it takes to succeed.  He also knows how important quarterbacks are to that success.

Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler and Tom Brady.  That's the spectrum of the quarterbacks Bennett has caught passes from.  No surprise it was with Brady, who many consider the best quarterback of all time, that Bennett finally added a Super Bowl title to his resume.  Now with Aaron Rodgers, Bennett has a good chance to see his best season yet.  

Since he became the starting quarterback and with head coach Mike McCarthy, Rodgers has been accustomed to a tight end as a big part of the game plan.  That hasn't always translated to a top-producing combination between he and the pass catcher.  Jermichael Finley was Rodgers' man for nearly five season with mixed results (and for various reasons).  Richard Rodgers' lack of speed has limited what the offense has done with him as the primary tight end.

Last season the Packers brought in Cook, who looked to be a big piece of the offense until an early-season foot injury limited him to just 10 games.  His regular season wasn't much to write home about but the playoffs were a different story.  Cook made one of the best catches the NFL saw in the playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys.  The crafty sideline grab helped move the Packers into the NFC championship game.  Better late than never, but it seemed the tight end was back in the Green Bay offense.

The foregone conclusion was that Cook would be back but then we heard from his agent that talks with the Packers had stalled.  Mild panic set in as many were hoping to see the fruits of the Rodgers-to-Cook combination in full force and for a full season.  Many wondered if it would be another season of Richard Rodgers or an early draft pick who might try to replace what Cook did.

So now Bennett is the man with another newcomer, Lance Kendricks.  But make no mistake, Bennett, all 6'6" and 275 pounds of him, is the man at tight end in 2017.  

Bennett's best statistical season was 2014 with the Chicago Bears when he caught 90 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns.  That was with Cutler at quarterback on a 5-11 team.

Rodgers certainly elevates the level of play of his receivers and while he may not get the ball to Bennett 90+ times this season, there will be plenty of opportunities for the big tight end to be as productive as ever.  Bennett caught just 55 passes in 16 games with the New England Patriots and hauled in seven touchdowns.  The Patriots found a way to use Bennett's size in the red zone and turn nearly 11% of those catches into scores.  

In 2016, the Packers were third-best in the league with an average of four red zone scoring attempts per game.  They were also third with an average of 2.6 touchdowns per game from inside the red zone.  Together, those two stats equated to a touchdown in 64.5% of their red zone trips, ninth best in the NFL. 

Bennett caught five of his seven touchdowns inside the red zone last season and four from inside the 10-yard line.  Add in the number of times Rodgers seems to be moving and creating near the goal line and add in a motivated big man like Bennett and that seems like a healthy recipe for some points on the scoreboard.

Rodgers' comfort with a receiver is a proven factor in their targets and production.  In 2015, James Jones returned after a year away and instantly became to go-to guy for Rodgers with no Jordy Nelson.  Cook in last year's playoffs is another example.  Nelson all of last year was the easy answer.  Bennett and Rodgers appear to be forming an early bond and while some scoff at the importance of chemistry and bonding, it's clearly important to the guy who throws the ball.

Health is the obvious caveat, but Bennett stands to be a big part of the story of the 2017 Packers and what they ultimately accomplish.  If the Packers offense continues its efficiency in moving the ball and getting into scoring opportunities, Bennett should factor often.  Hopefully he's been practicing his Lambeau Leap.

 

 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (16)

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Nick Perry's picture

June 09, 2017 at 07:04 am

Edit.... Bennett improves the TE position tenfold. He's a much better blocker than Cook will ever be and probably a better receiver. IMO Kendricks is the guy who basically replaces Cook. I think Kendricks can do everything Cooks can do only block better. Bennett does it all better than both. The Packers just reap the benefits. Good job Ted!

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 09, 2017 at 06:54 am

I think Bennett will have a really good year this year. But it may not come in terms of huge numbers. There is only one football to get spread around and there is a lot of weapons in this offense.

His presence will be felt with just being on the field. He will draw the attention of safety's and LB's which will open up lanes for the WR's and TE's.
But possibly his greatest presence will be felt in the run game. The Packers haven't had great blocking TE's in the past. Having Bennett will really help Montgomery and the other RB's.

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2017 at 07:52 am

I think your post is right on the money. I would be surprised if he finishes with much over 50 catches...but I wouldn't be surprised to see him approach double-digit TDs. Your assessment of him in the run game, without sacrificing weapons in the passing game, is right on.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 09, 2017 at 07:36 am

The offense on this roster is really remarkable. In my opinion, it looks to be the best starting group (Rodgers/Montgomery/Bennett/Nelson/Adams/Cobb/ Bakhtiari/Bulaga/Evans/Taylor/Linsley) in Rodger's career, and the second-string may be equal to some starting line-ups in the NFL(Hundley,Williams/Ripkowski/Kendricks/Allison/Yancy/
Spriggs/Murphy/Barclay/Amichia/Gray).
Yeah, I know, I've got four rookies on that second string, but I have high expectations for Williams and Yancy, and Amichia and Gray are tremendous athletes who could be as good as some teams' starting guards--though that's an optimistic stretch!

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 09, 2017 at 07:40 am

We may see the Packers' second string dominate during this year's pre-season... It would be interesting--and may happen--to see our number twos line up against another team's number ones during the pre-season.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 09, 2017 at 10:59 am

Your username does not belie your opinions. I am not sure that your username does full justice to you. Amichia? That's okay with me, though.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 09, 2017 at 02:47 pm

:-D Ha Yeah, I tend to hope for the best--I've never been glad when I was pessimistic about anything. That said, I tend to also be pragmatic and look at "the big picture."
Amichia was one of the top athletes at guard in this draft--but he also has a LOT of question marks; the same thing for Gray. It's entirely possible neither one of them makes the team, but they have the POTENTIAL to be very good second-string guys.
All of the other positions are pretty solid, though. I really believe Hundley is a quality QB, and I have high hopes for Williams and Yancy based on their game tape. I felt the same way about Geronimo at this point last year, but I think Williams and Yancy have much higher ceilings.

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Since'61's picture

June 09, 2017 at 08:43 am

The Packers offense with Bennett and Kendricks should provide plenty of headaches for opposing DCs. With Rodgers reading defenses and calling plays at the LOS defenses will likely keep their safeties deep leaving opportunities for the run and the short to mid-range pass routes. If they remain healthy the entire Packers offense should have a big season, not just Bennett. Thanks, Since '61

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vagem55's picture

June 09, 2017 at 08:43 am

What does Jason mean by " They were also third with an average of 2.6 touchdowns per red zone trip"?

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jasonperone's picture

June 09, 2017 at 09:36 am

Third among all NFL teams with 2.6 TD's from inside the red zone, per game, not per trip

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dobber's picture

June 09, 2017 at 09:48 am

I think you just got yourself crossed up. Here's the actual phrasing...

"In 2016, the Packers were third-best in the league with an average of four red zone scoring attempts per game. They were also third with an average of 2.6 touchdowns per game from inside the red zone. Together, those two stats equated to a touchdown in 64.5% of their red zone trips, ninth best in the NFL. "

Averaging 4 red zone trips per game converting 2.6 into TDs. It would be nice if they could score multiple TDs on every trip to the red zone, though, eh?

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Bird's picture

June 09, 2017 at 08:49 am

Ted did a good job filling in the holes. I'm worried that the one area not addressed is defensive coordinator. Rodgers and the offense have carried them pretty far despite really bad defensive efforts. With the additions to the team, it seems all that is required for a championship run is a "decent" defense and injury freedom. I'm excited that they have a good shot at least that.

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snowdog's picture

June 09, 2017 at 09:58 am

Seriously,isn't it too late at this point to change the DC ?

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snowdog's picture

June 09, 2017 at 10:30 am

Edit : In the season .

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pakmann's picture

June 09, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Spread the ball around is only sure way to prevent offensive injuries in NFL. No way Packers with all the firepower on offense, keeping defense on bench, shouldn't go all the way to Super Bowl.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 10, 2017 at 03:33 pm

Bennett might not have a career year in terms of aggregate numbers, but it figures to be his most efficient year.

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