How the Packers Stack Up at Tight End This Season

The tight end position was a big question mark for the Packers heading into the 2020 season. Last year’s starter, Jimmy Graham, was let go over the offseason and signed with Chicago which to many felt like addition by subtraction.

It was unclear how the remaining players on the roster would stack up and be utilized in Matt LaFleur’s offense which likes to use numerous multiple tight-end sets and to use tight ends in a variety of ways. Tight ends can line up in the traditional tight end position, they could line up on the outside like a wide receiver or they could be used as an H-back.

Thus far, through three games, here is how the Packers tight ends stack up:

1. Robert Tonyan

Tonyan is presently the number one tight end on the Packers roster. He has been on the field for 62 percent of the team’s offensive plays through three games and leads all tight ends with seven catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Tonyan bulked up a bit during the offseason and has been a willing blocker this year when called upon. But the best part of the former Indiana State star’s game is his ability to catch passes and get downfield.

It is becoming clear that Tonyan has earned the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers by running reliable routes and knowing the offense well enough to make the proper adjustments during plays.

Against the Saints, rollout bootleg play action passes to the tight ends were a big part of the game plan and Tonyan responded with a career-high five catch game.

He may not be the team’s long-term solution at pass catching tight end, but right now, the job is his to lose and he’s off to a solid start.

2. Marcedes Lewis

Lewis is the Packers most experienced tight end and remains one of the better run-blockers at the position. Lewis grades out highly on both run blocking and pass blocking and still has reliable hands when he’s called on to go out and run pass patterns.

Thus far, Lewis has started all three games and has played in 40 percent of the Packers offensive snaps this season. He has two catches for 22 yards and a touchdown.

In addition to his blocking and hands, Lewis has strong leadership skills which are quite important to the team considering the lack of experience the other players at the position have.

3. Jace Sternberger

An injury cost Sternberger the first half of his rookie season last year, but the 2019 third-round pick out of Texas A&M played in the final six regular season games and showed a willingness to run block, something many scouts weren’t sure he could do well since he often lined up wide during his only season playing for the Aggies.

While he didn’t catch any passes in the regular season, Sternberger made three catches in the Packers two playoff games and scored his first pro touchdown during the NFC Championship Game.

This year, Sternberger started training camp on the Covid-19 list and that certainly seems to have slowed down his progress.

In the first two games of the season, he dropped several passes but came back with a strong three catch effort against the Saints which gained him 36 yards. Thus far in 2020, Sternberger has played in 23 percent of the Packers offensive snaps.

As he gets more comfortable in the offense, look for Sternberger’s role to increase as the season progresses.

4. Josiah Deguara

Deguara made his NFL debut in the season opener against the Vikings and played 31 percent of the Packers snaps in that contest. He also made his first NFL catch which gained 12 yards.

The rookie missed the last two games with injuries to his ankle and shin and it is still not clear when he’ll be healthy enough to return to the lineup.

Deguara had a strong game blocking for the run against Minnesota and will likely line up as a tight end, slot receiver or H-back depending on the situation.

LaFleur was very enthusiastic about Deguara after the draft and training camp and he should be incorporated into the offense in a variety of ways once he is healthy. His primary task may be blocking early on but look for him to get more involved in the receiving game as he gets more comfortable running precise pass routes in the Green Bay system.

5. John Lovett

The former college quarterback has been active for all three games but has mostly seen action on special teams. He has played a total of 14 offensive snaps over the first three weeks of the season with 11 of them coming against the Lions. He has yet to catch a pass.

LaFleur is high on Lovett’s intelligence and versatility. Look for him to continue to be a contributor on special teams whenever he’s active on game day. He may fill in more at tight end or H-back when injuries strike the top four at the position.

So far, the Packers tight end position has been more reliable and productive early this year than they were last year. The season still has a long way to go and the younger players on the roster all still have plenty of room to improve their games.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (55)

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Coldworld's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:19 pm

It has been better than last year and there are reasons for optimism. Tonyan looks like a rounded TE this year. Deguara is one I’ve liked from the start. Looking forward to seeing him not just for him as a player but how what LaFleur terms the Fback role contributes to the overall O.

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GilMartin's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:22 pm

I also like the potential of this group. Want Deguara healthy so we can see what he can do. Tonyan has stepped up and I'm still high on Sternberger even with the drops earlier this season. Love the leadership and blocking of Lewis, too. It's a good group, no stars, but very solid with the potential to get better. Thanks for the comment, Coldworld.

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murf7777's picture

October 01, 2020 at 06:58 pm

Damn... Lazard has core muscle surgery and out indefinitely:(

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:24 pm

Yeah, bad for him and obviously bad for the team. Hope he can return later in the season. Thanks for commenting, murf7777

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Bearmeat's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:24 pm

This is the best TE room we've had since 2011.

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GilMartin's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:37 pm

It is certainly deep and there are some diverse talents. I like it and I agree. Thanks as always for commenting, Bearmeat.

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4thand10's picture

October 01, 2020 at 08:56 pm

100% on that. And the ways they are used is promising...they are all catching and blocking...so even when they rotate teams still dont know whats going on. Im liking it so far.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:26 pm

Spot on 4thand10. That is a big part of the LaFleur offense, keeping the defense guessing as long as possible. So far, so good this season. Thanks for the comment.

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Packer_Fan's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:32 pm

We get all wrapped up in players that are great or perform so well. Those are individual performances and yes, many make teams better. Lafleur and Rodgers are going beyond that. Yes we need guys like Adams and Jones to be the big guns. But the way Lafleur has schemed the offense, guys like Lazard, and the TE's, and Ervin, and MVS all do their specific parts. And make plays. And move the chains. Everything is working for the offense because everyone is doing their part.

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GilMartin's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:38 pm

I think you nailed that, Packer_Fan. The stars get the attention, but the so-called role players must do their jobs for the team to have a chance to win consistently. Thanks for the comment.

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4thand10's picture

October 01, 2020 at 08:59 pm

I Still wanna see AJ Dillan pound it for a quarter or 2. Love Jones and Williams, but one of these games I wanna see teams expecting it but cant do anything to stop it type running.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:27 pm

Always enjoyed watching big backs who are impossible to stop. John Riggins, Earl Campbell, etc. Eddie Lacy when he was in shape. Looking forward to seeing what Dillon can do.

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PhantomII's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:32 pm

Graham is definitely addition by subtraction. He held back all of the younger TE growth for a very large and unearned paycheck. ML and Gute asked him to be a complete TE which he has never been. He is a possession receiver and was used outside his pure skillset. Even when just receiving, he dropped crucial first downs several times. Nor did he get open or be difficult to bring down for such a large body.
I like our composition of Big Dog and the younger TE's this year. Tonyan has blossomed a bit. Degura came alive right out of the gate. Hope he heals quickly. Sternberger was a personal disappointment to me but maybe I had my college eye test a little too high. He has made some nice catches in the N.O. game and things are looking up for him. I like how Rodgers pointed at him and smiled when he completed the catches. Rodgers seems to have taken a little of his serious edge off and it is showing in the younger guys growth. Really nothing but good things to say about the offense from blocking duties to receiving.
The only real question I have is why not Dillon in short yardage, especially 3rd and short, 4th and 1 and goal line.????????

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GilMartin's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Yeah, Graham not being here is a good thing. Chicago can have him. Big Dog is so good in the locker room and gives the team great blocking also. Deguara should have a bright future once he's back in the lineup. I think Sternberger will be just fine. Just getting healthy again will be a big step forward. I think we will see Dillon in short yardage later in the season, but LaFleur and the coaching staff needs to be comfortable with his ability to pass block. Thanks for commenting, PhantomII, good to hear from you.

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murf7777's picture

October 01, 2020 at 06:51 pm

Hmmm, give Dillon sometime. Jones did a great job at 4th and goal finding the small hole and plowing through. If by chance Dillon were to fumble at such a high risk time fans would be irate we put him in. His time will come.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 01, 2020 at 08:55 pm

Dillon won't fumble, but it was a high stakes game. He will annihilate defenses down the road.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:29 pm

I agree, give him some time. Dillon will get more playing time when he shows the coaching staff he can be relied on in pass protection. Thanks again, murf7777

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BBlake's picture

October 01, 2020 at 12:55 pm

This isn't rocket science, guys just need to be available, block, run correct routes and catch the ball. If so, they can make a lot of money in this offense. If not, they're in the wrong business.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:31 pm

It is a very tight end friendly system and yes, they should be able to thrive in it. These young players have to show they can do it consistently. So far, so good. Thanks for the comment, BBlake.

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gkarl's picture

October 01, 2020 at 01:31 pm

I wouldn't call it a perfect balance of blocking and receiving yet but it seems to be getting with each game. The young guys seems to embrace the blocking role required to let offense work as designed and are contributing well time catches to help keep defenses guessing, which is MFL's plan.

A way better room this year and I'm optimistic they'll continue to get better individually and as a group.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:33 pm

It is a much better mix this year, gkarl. I loved seeing Sternberger block last year because nobody was sure how well he could do it. He was very willing and worked hard. Duguara was off to a solid start and Tonyan has worked hard as well. Just love watching Big Dog still getting it done. Looking forward to the overall improvement of the group over the season. Thanks as always, gkarl.

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PackfanNY's picture

October 01, 2020 at 01:53 pm

I like this group and Tonyan has impressed me with his sure hands. Sternberger had the early dropsies but I am looking forward to watching his confidence increase. He will need to work on his blocking. Deguara looked very intriguing. Tremendous block in the Viking game and the reaction from the GB sideline in the quiet Bird killing Dome was a highlight of the season. Big Dog is Big Dog. He seems like a leader and can block. He is also sure handed especially on short yardage plays.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:00 pm

Tonyan a good routes and receiver, not much of a blocker. I still put my cards with Sternberger once he gets his mojo back. Great snag by Lewis for the TD. Deguara is a guy with a great future. Loved watching him for the Bearcats. He is a solid football guy. Le Fleur gets it. He knows the game from Bud Wilkinson to Andy Reid. He will get the Packers another Lombardi.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:36 pm

From your mouth to G-d's ears, jannesbjornson. I think LaFleur is off to an amazing start and the TE group is solid and getting better. Tonyan is not a good blocker but he puts in the effort. Thanks for the comment.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:34 pm

Thanks for the comment, PackfanNY. Yeah, I agree with your observations and it's a good group and best of all, they still can get much better because three of them are young.

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Packers0808's picture

October 01, 2020 at 01:58 pm

I like Lewis he is a like a ghost out there, does his job and goes about very quietly. The Packers are lucky have a gristled older tight end with these young guys to show them the ropes!

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:04 pm

A great TE from his college days at UCLA to the J ville swamp. He could stretch the field and pulled in many TDs in his early years.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:37 pm

Yeah, you rarely notice Lewis but the coaches love what he does on the field and he's almost like another coach on the field. Thanks for commenting, Packers0808.

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Lphill's picture

October 01, 2020 at 02:06 pm

Gil it is a well balanced group no two are alike , I feel in time Sternberger will lead the pack because his college tape shows some impressive performances .

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murf7777's picture

October 01, 2020 at 06:46 pm

I agree about Sternberger, but I’m really excited about Deguara. I might head his fan club..lol

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:05 pm

Need the double TE sets to win in the Playoffs.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:39 pm

I like the diversity of skills the group brings and the way they are utilized so far. They will be put to the test without Lazard and with Adams still a question mark. Always good to hear from you Lphill.

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canadapacker's picture

October 01, 2020 at 02:12 pm

The last game our tight ends really helped out and came into their own. I still havent seen the speed and tackling missing moves out of these guys - hopefully Degura will eventually provide that. Lewis made a fantastic - end zone catch and the play by play saying that it was a push of are nuts - if that was offensive pass interference then throw it every time that there is hand checking. Lewis gets tackled the minute he catches the ball as he is slow so he needs to get to the markers in order to be a reliable 3rd down receiver. But the biggest thing seems to be that AR is not only getting the ball out correctly when those plays are called - but his ball placement is so good that it allows the TE's to be heading in the right direction after the ball arrives. Last year he had a lot of low or behind throws. It makes a big difference if you are running with the ball at the time of the catch ( as long as you look the ball into your hands). We really need this as the last game proved - you can shut down Jones, MVS, Lazard and now you get a tight end - nice 4th option.

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murf7777's picture

October 01, 2020 at 06:44 pm

“We really need this as the last game proved - you can shut down Jones, MVS, Lazard and now you get a tight end - nice 4th option.“

How did they shut down Lazard?? He had a career game, one that will be hard to match.

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canadapacker's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:30 pm

You know what I meant - on plays when they doubled him especially after he caught the big passes.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:07 pm

He dropped weight and it shows. He's a bit quicker this season.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:10 pm

repetez

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:41 pm

Rodgers' accuracy always makes a difference and it is better this year. None of these guys are Pro Bowlers yet, but they are functioning well and will have to over the next few games. Thanks for the comment, canadapacker.

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splitpea1's picture

October 01, 2020 at 03:06 pm

From rags to riches....I was really worried about our TE group and their (mostly) lack of experience to start the season, but I'm thrilled they've proven me wrong. Kind of helps erase the memories of Graham and Bennett.

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murf7777's picture

October 01, 2020 at 06:41 pm

Bennett yes...Graham not so much to the chagrin of many packer fans. I was one who saw his value but not for the money we or the Bears are paying.

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splitpea1's picture

October 01, 2020 at 08:40 pm

I don't know; he seems to be responding well to the Bears and is supposedly bringing energy to their offense; commented favorably on the leadership of Foles vs. Tribusky. Still WAY too much money, but at least we got that game-clinching catch/first down vs. Seattle out of him--his finest moment as a Packer.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:45 pm

Was tough to warm up to Graham for me because of his lack of production. He really hurt the team at times. Thanks for the comment.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:44 pm

So far, so good. I was concerned, too. Potential and talent definitely there, but the lack of experience was a potential issue. Hope the young guys continue to mature and develop. Thanks for the comment, splitpea1, always good to hear from you.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

October 01, 2020 at 03:09 pm

This article reminds me that we won a Super Bowl with Andrew Quarless at starting TE (Finley lost during the season). It just means that guys that aren't stars and may never be can help you get where you want to go as a team, moving the chains, scoring, winning games and hopefully the division and more.

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4thand10's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:11 pm

Im glad you brought this up and it is a super important point. This team is playing as a team. Under the coaching staff, Rodgers doing whatever Zen / Budda thing to get his mind good...whatever it is , it seems like a tight group playing together. That is worth an edge all on its own...even if there are shortcomings. They are playing together.

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jannes bjornson's picture

October 01, 2020 at 09:15 pm

And big plays by Crab in the playoff run.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:46 pm

Yeah, the Packers don't necessarily need an all-pro TE to win a title. As long as the guys they have are consistently able to do their jobs, the offense should be fine. Thanks for the comment, WestCoastPackerBacker.

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Wildcomet's picture

October 01, 2020 at 04:29 pm

It's easy to see why the position is so important to MLF's offense; these guys are really the swiss army knives that allow the flexibility to pull of the illusion of complexity the offense relies on.

Graham wasn't truly on board with that so he is addition by subtraction and the young guys all bring different strengths but a willingness to do it all. Tonyan seems to be rounding the corner from project to player which is great to see. The others are also showing promise and a variety of skills. I wouldn't be shocked at all to see Lovett or Deguara even get an occasional handoff in the backfield in short yardage situations just to add another wrinkle for teams to deal with.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:49 pm

Wouldn't be surprised, either, Wildcomet. Your first paragraph is a great summary of the MLF offense. Thanks for a great comment.

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PatrickGB's picture

October 01, 2020 at 05:12 pm

John Lovett is the big unknown so far. I wonder how good he really is? They prize his intelligence but I wonder what he could do in game situations?

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murf7777's picture

October 01, 2020 at 06:39 pm

Haven’t been as impressed with Lovett compared to Deguara. When Deguara comes back I suspect Lovett will be cut or PS.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:56 pm

I think LaFleur is fascinated by Lovett, but he loves Deguara. I think Lovett will stick around on special teams or practice squad.

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:54 pm

We shall see. I bet he throws at least one pass this year...Just a hunch. Thanks for the comment, PatrickGB.

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murf7777's picture

October 01, 2020 at 06:20 pm

The “pass catchers” as I like to call them in Mlf O are doing just fine whether that be the TE, WR HB or RB groups. We are in the top 3 of O for the year and I don’t see anything changing that. Injuries; no problem, next man up is working great with the play calling from Mlf and AR’s execution.

We are watching a special year!

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GilMartin's picture

October 02, 2020 at 05:56 pm

Through 3 weeks, it's been very impressive. Hope they keep it up

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