Don't Give Up on Jace Sternberger Just Yet

It's been a slow start to Jace Sternberger's career with the Green Bay Packers, but don't give up on him just yet.

The first two seasons for former third-round selection Jace Sternberger have been underwhelming, to say the least. During his rookie year, he appeared in only six games after dealing with an injury. In 2020, he was behind Josiah Deguara, Marcedes Lewis, and Robert Tonyan on the depth chart--eventually losing out on playing time to Dominique Dafney as well.
 
However, even with the slow start to Sternberger's career, it's not time to hit the panic button just yet. In his limited playing time, we've seen a versatile player who can be moved around the formation, a willing blocker, and someone who can get open, even if the stat sheet doesn't reflect that.
 
But perhaps more importantly, what Sternberger still needs is time--and I know that's something that not everyone wants to give him at this point. The transition from college to the NFL at the tight end position is an extremely difficult one and a move that we rarely see pan out in that first NFL season, and in many instances, Year 2 isn't all that great either. 
 
When it comes to Sternberger, despite coming off of his second NFL season, he's a relatively inexperienced player. As a redshirt freshman at Kansas, he caught just one pass. He then spent his sophomore year at a Junior College before transferring to Texas A&M, where he had his big season.
 
Over his two NFL seasons, Sternberger has been on the field for only 301 total offensive snaps. To add some context, let's stay on the conservative side and assume that if he were a starter, he would be on the field for 35 offensive snaps per game, which equals out to 8.6 games. So less than nine full games of NFL experience is all he has.
 
Jamison Hensley of ESPN wrote an article where he notes that there have been only two rookie tight ends to eclipse the 600 receiving yard mark in their first season since 2003. Even in Year 2, there is no guarantee of a big jump in production.
 
Tight ends have to be able to run and understand route trees like a wide receiver, as well as blocking techniques and assignments like an offensive lineman. In Hemsley's article, former Baltimore Ravens' tight end Todd Heap mentioned that a coach once told him that after the quarterback, the tight end should know more about the offense than any other player on the field. Heap would go on to tell a story of how he was chewed out in practice because another player lined up incorrectly.
 
After an incomplete 2019 season due to missed time with an injury, in a way, 2020 was like Sternberger's rookie season. While he is a former third-round pick, as I highlighted above, Sternberger is still a relatively inexperienced player at a difficult position--having time to develop is a major factor. We saw this first hand with Robert Tonyan.
 
Now, having said all of this, 2021 is a huge year for Sternberger in terms of his career trajectory with the Green Bay Packers. We need to see both his playing time and his production increase moving forward.
 
In a perfect world, would Sternberger already be a dynamic presence in the passing game and a solid blocker? Absolutely. But as we all know, it's not that simple, and career trajectories are rarely linear--especially at the tight end position. While his first two seasons haven't gone as hoped, it's not time to throw in the towel just yet.

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (28)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Turophile's picture

March 01, 2021 at 11:25 am

Third years the charm, particularly for TEs. We should know by the end of 2021 if he is a keeper.

If he has a chance to make it anywhere, it's with Rodgers throwing to him. If he can't look good in this system he's dead meat.

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AndrewInAtlanta's picture

March 01, 2021 at 11:23 am

I’m confused. Is someone giving up on Jace?

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CheesyTex's picture

March 01, 2021 at 11:46 am

I think the answer is no. But when he was in good health near the end of his second year, he fell on the depth chart behind a guy who was out of football and working as a bouncer in Iowa until late in the season. So, the question marks will be there until he proves otherwise..

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 01, 2021 at 12:22 pm

Covid, then the concussion put him on the shelf for a bit. Best to to go slow with his head injury after the cheap shot he received from Johnson in 2019. They didn't select Sternberger to be a blocker like Dafney.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 01, 2021 at 11:57 am

Paul should have covered Sternberger's injury situation in his post. A major gaffe on his part. The short answer is, we don't know. Head injuries are treated differently in the NFL, because of the long term and lingering after effects. As I said down thread, the silence from the Packers may not be a good thing. At this point, we just do not know.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 01, 2021 at 11:45 am

Too many X-factors at play for the Packers here. While Sternberger is a high draft choice for Gutekunst, he is one who has suffered fairly serious injuries in his short Packer career. His last injury (a severe concussion) left him unable to get on the field, even though he was on the active roster. The Packers as a team have been extremely careful with head injuries, to the extent of cutting core players and starters, and urging them to retire rather than risking future damage. The silence from the Packers on Sternberger to date is not a good sign. Still, they could IR for injury, if he still has some lingering effects this season. We will just have to wait and see.

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stockholder's picture

March 01, 2021 at 12:10 pm

Gute made a good selection. I'm Staying with Jace. Sorry--- but it's Time to retire Lewis.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 01, 2021 at 12:29 pm

His other choices were McLaurin, Winovich, Takitaki..., but they needed a TE and he was all SEC his last year at A&M.

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mnbadger's picture

March 01, 2021 at 12:36 pm

I think flackcatcher hit it right on the head, no pun intended. If he's suffered a severe concussion, he and/or the team may decide he can't play anymore. I suffered a very bad concussion which left me unable to read for over 5 months, say nothing of playing professional football. I wish him and the Pack the best no matter how it turns out. GPG

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Ernesto's picture

March 01, 2021 at 12:56 pm

He had a couple severe concussions at Wisc if I'm not mistaken. Football may be too much for him physically

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Packerpasty's picture

March 01, 2021 at 02:37 pm

he never played at Wisc??

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Ernesto's picture

March 01, 2021 at 12:54 pm

I had high hopes for this guy and yes injuries slowed him down, but he had injuries slowing him down at Wisconsin too. So you think, fluke, lets get him going, he will be a good one. Ya that didnt happen and i'm sure the coaches were thinking the same thing.
When a guy is healthy and mostly bench sitting in important end of season games, it means the coaches lack faith in this guy and that's the kiss of death.
I read that he is not a good blocker, cant learn to block or doesnt want to block and that made him expendable. Time to but the cord

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13TimeChamps's picture

March 01, 2021 at 03:21 pm

Time to cut the cord with posters who are totally misinformed.
He never played for Wisconsin.

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Guam's picture

March 01, 2021 at 03:42 pm

He played at Texas A&M.

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 01, 2021 at 10:37 pm

You better cut the cord from Q. You're delusional.

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NickPerry's picture

March 02, 2021 at 05:48 am

I think it's time for ErneErne to read the players Bio before commenting.

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canadapacker's picture

March 01, 2021 at 01:00 pm

I am also one who had high hopes for Sternberger. But I am starting to wonder if he is coming into camp in as good of shape as he needs to be. One of the things that we need out of back up tight ends is that they need to play well on special teams. They are not only bigger the are also faster than most other of special teams guys. They may not be the gunners but they are the guys who need to do the tackling and blocking. To that end they also need to be big and strong and most definitely cannot be getting carried off injured. Offensively he appeared to have the speed but non of our tight ends have the tackle breaking ability of Kittle or Kelce - even Tonyon doesnt ( although Tonyon gets really wide open and always comes up with the catch). So even though I am not giving up on him - it is most suredly his make it or break year and he better pump some iron and come into camp in great shape because Dafney will beat him out.

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Stroh's picture

March 01, 2021 at 10:25 pm

You can't train yourself to get into shape to prevent concussions or Covid. Those are totally outside the realm on training and conditioning! Stick to subjects you know something about! You don't get to be all American in college or drafted into the NFL without strong training! SMH...

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jannes bjornson's picture

March 01, 2021 at 10:40 pm

TONYAN, you're making the Q guy look good.

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barutanseijin's picture

March 01, 2021 at 01:02 pm

I’m not going to give up on him now, but i don’t see this guy making the final 53.

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BAMABADGER's picture

March 01, 2021 at 02:10 pm

If he comes to training camp lacking strength and bulk as he did this season.... Let him walk.

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CoachDino's picture

March 01, 2021 at 03:36 pm

He's kinda a tough luck story
year 1 - Cheap shot in the dual practice sidelined him.
year 2 - Another injury and Covid.

IMO he brings much more to the table than Big Bob Tonyan but Big Bob got his chance and made the most of it. Big Bob didn't have a single drop. Jace can be the offensive weapon down the seam that has been missing, plus, like, Bob and other packer Rec. Arod really ups their game....Jace is the TE mismatch.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

March 01, 2021 at 03:39 pm

As usual, I tend to miss the boat on evaluating the success of all too many Packer draft choices. I was really high on Sternberger when we drafted him in the 3rd round and liked him better than Noah Fant and Irv Smith, but I was hoping the Packers would somehow draft Hockenson, but that was not in the cards. So in essence, the Packers drafted my second highest choice for among the tight ends. It certainly hasn't turned out as I expected. To see an undrafted free agent rookie come in and play ahead of Sternberger was simply disappointing. I love football and study line blocking after games that I record and to me it looks like Sternberger still has a chance, but in the few plays I saw Josiah Deguara play, he really looks like a football player that is ready willing and able to do the job. Here is hoping Sternberger can see the light this year.

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canadapacker's picture

March 01, 2021 at 04:34 pm

I agree - too bad that Degura got hurt because we did not see him out there a lot and block in the running game and the receiver screens and blitz pickups. If he can block then he will definitely be a good replacement for Mercedes. But that blocking at the NFL level is a skill to be learned only by the willing. Jace has had problem so has Big Bob - not moving his feet and getting too many holding calls.

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Duneslick's picture

March 01, 2021 at 04:55 pm

None of the packers te have run after the catch ability. The veer upfield and wait to get tackled. Tonyan is the best we have as he is the fastest and he cant jump and makes big plays only on blown coverages not on his route or moves.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

March 02, 2021 at 01:35 am

I do not understand the posts asserting that Sternberger didn't play due to concussion issues. My understanding is that if the player is not on the injury report, he must have cleared the concussion protocol. Sternberger was not listed on the injury reports for several games but was inactive for those games. The NFL policy on injury reports includes the following:

“If any player has a significant or noteworthy injury, it must be listed on the practice report, even if he fully participates in practice and the team expects that he will play in the team’s next game. This is especially important for key players whose injuries may be covered extensively by the media. The information must be credible, accurate, timely, and specific within the guidelines of the policy, which is of paramount importance to maintaining the integrity of the game.”

Per NFL Operations, the injury report policy includes the following:

Some injuries are automatically reportable because they result in the player’s unavailability or limited availability to the club. These include any injury that:
(a)causes the player to miss a game;
(b)prevents the player from finishing a game;
(c)causes the player to miss a practice (Did Not Participate);
(d)limits the player’s participation in practice (Limited Participation); or
(e)prevents the player from finishing a practice (Limited Participation).

So, if Sternberger could not or was limited in practice, he has to be on the report, but he wasn't. That suggests to me that he cleared the protocol but GB still would not make him active. Sounds bad to me.

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flackcatcher's picture

March 02, 2021 at 11:36 pm

The league protocol on concussion came about because of a lawsuit. Former players sued the NFL and got a massive settlement along with forcing the league to put a fairly comprehensive medical protocol in place for the teams. Before, every team could deal with concussions as they saw fit. The lawsuit forced a baseline that teams had to follow. The Packers, like many NFL teams, have higher and fairly strict standards on player injuries. Also, privacy rights under federal law(HIPAA) and NFL/PA contracts must be followed. So expecting injury information beyond the basics, is asking for a visit by the FBI and or a lawsuit.

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barutanseijin's picture

March 03, 2021 at 05:32 am

Sternberger is like Janis: white and oddly overrated by some fans. Unlike Janis, he usually isn’t available, and when he is, he doesn’t always suit up, especially for the biggest games. He also doesn’t play special teams. Janis made a big play from time to time. When has Sternberger?

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