What Happened to Jace Sternberger?

A look back on Jace Sternberger's troubling second season in the NFL. 

If any player has a right to be frustrated with their 2020 season, it’s Jace Sternberger.

There was a lot of confidence surrounding the second-year tight end entering training camp. The former 2019 third-round pick fit the mold of a receiving threat over the middle that could potentially create serious mismatches. Unfortunately, he suffered a setback in his rookie season when an ankle injury forced him out of the first eight weeks. After being activated off of injured reserve halfway through the year, Sternberger never quite got his footing, and his development took a hit. However, that was all supposed to change this season when he started to play significant snaps.

“We’re depending on Jace to be a big part of what we’re going to do this season,” Brian Gutekunst said back in August.

With Jimmy Graham no longer around, Sternberger was the guy. The Green Bay Packers invested significant draft capital in him, and this was his second year in the offense. However, Sternberger never took the jump they had hoped for. Instead, he struggled to see the field as Robert Tonyan assumed the spot of TE1, and Josiah Deguara fit seamlessly into the H-back role.

When Sternberger did get his chances early on, he failed to capitalize. His second target of the season came against the Detroit Lions, but he failed to bring in a wide-open pass that could have gone for a huge gain.

He bounced back the following week with three receptions for 36 yards against the New Orleans Saints. However, it ended up being just a flash in the pan when Sternberger finished the year with 12 receptions for 114 yards and one touchdown.

Injuries also played a role. You could make the argument that Sternberger didn’t do much to help himself, but for the second year in a row, his development was stunted by injuries. He exited Green Bay’s week 13 game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a concussion and went on to miss the next three games.

As it turned out, the game against the Eagles would be his last in 2020.

When he finally cleared protocol in time for the regular-season finale, he was inactive. Instead, the team continued to turn to rookie undrafted free agent Dominique Dafney.

Even in the playoffs, the Packers continued to play Dafney over Sternberger. Why would they play a UDFA over a third-round pick? Well, Dafney could also do something Sternberger couldn’t- contribute on special teams.

When Sternberger remained inactive through both of their playoff games, it was clear he couldn’t contribute to the team’s immediate needs. With Tonyan as the starter, Marcedes Lewis's blocking, and Dafney's role on special teams, Sternberger was buried on the depth chart. When it was all said and done, Sternberger’s second year in the NFL came to be filled with misfortune.

This isn’t to say the door is shut on Sternberger. In fact, it’s still very much open. Green Bay did invest a third-round pick in him just two years ago and he still has a lot of potentials they can unlock. He’s a good athlete and a good route runner, so there’s no reason he can’t carve out a role in Matt LaFleur’s offense. However, he has a ton of work to do to earn those opportunities.

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

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9 points

Comments (33)

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VinceL's picture

February 05, 2021 at 03:43 pm

Other than being missing most of the time do to injury, I’m not seeing his misfortune.

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Coldworld's picture

February 05, 2021 at 06:13 pm

He did get booted in the head and blindsided in camp the year before. Those were misfortunes that likely contributed to his concussion concerns.

On the field he dropped ones he shouldn’t yet appears to have good hands. I think he just needed time to settle that injury prevented him having. Dafney is a FB/HB type really, I love his blocking, but Lewis and Tonyan handled TE. Was that simply a role preference or reflective of health concerns for Sternberger? I suspect we won’t know.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 06, 2021 at 01:30 am

Sternberger will get his looks if the concussion issues subside. He took a few blast this year and the pack was cautious with his return. He's the slot TE.

3 points
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CoachDino's picture

February 05, 2021 at 04:41 pm

i'm not getting the point of the article.
Takes time for a TE to develop (OK I get that, its true)
Injuries - you missed the concussion from the cheapshot in the practice/scrimmage with Bengals? that really set him back
Than another year with ankle and concussion issues.
That's 2 straight years of seasons missed by injury. heck he's looked decent when he has played, biggest issues is staying healthy. IMO, he has a much higher ceiling than Tonyan when healthy - packers opinion as well seeing they drafted him. I like Tonyan and he has improved but he is a recipient of playing with ARod in this offense.
I think you also missed a big point in that Dafney and Jace really don't play the same position. Dafney is more like Josiah D a Fullback/H-back type. Jace is much more like Tonyan - receiver type. Sure Jace can and has played H-Back before Josiah was drafted but that's not his strength or what he was drafted to play. I am positive that had a great deal to do with why after missing most of the season the didn't throw him in there.
So what more do we know now after reading this? I'm being a bit more critical because andy Herman, just this morning, made mention of "Grumblings" around Jace so I was hoping this article may of detailed them.

7 points
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TarynsEyes's picture

February 05, 2021 at 05:24 pm

"I like Tonyan, and he has improved, but he is a recipient of playing with ARod in this offense."

Aren't they all really, less Adams? Though even Adams may be less heralded without having Rodgers.

7 points
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buddrow53's picture

February 06, 2021 at 12:55 am

The old question does the qb makes the wr or does the wr make the qb?

No doubt in my mind.

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packerbackerjim's picture

February 06, 2021 at 07:19 am

Adam’s actually had a very good year when Hundley was the QB. He no doubt is better with AR, but was heralded without him.

1 points
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flackcatcher's picture

February 05, 2021 at 05:51 pm

Seriously, two straight back to back seasons with concussions. What did Lafleur think the medical staff was going to do. These are head and possible brain injuries. The Herman story has been floating around right after the end of the season by some of Lafleur staff. Beyond stupid. The Packers medical staff makes the call, and they don't play games like some other teams do. Frankly I don't get it. Why beat up on this kid for things he can't control.

7 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

February 06, 2021 at 01:33 am

Remember how long it took Chumura to get his mojo. They will be dynamic with three TE sets, hell, even go four power sets with Dafney. Tough call if Lewis returns. It's up to him.

3 points
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flackcatcher's picture

February 05, 2021 at 05:31 pm

Hmmmmm..... No. Sternberger got hurt and couldn't come back. Period. There's nothing X-Fileish going on here. Even being on the roster was more of a function of waiting to see if he could clear the protocols. The Packers as an organization are extremely careful when it comes to any kind of head injury. Once he couldn't clear the protocols it became a medical issue, and the Packers medical staff made that call. If he clears then he will be on the roster next year. That's all.

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Coldworld's picture

February 05, 2021 at 06:15 pm

He was a healthy scratch the last 3 maybe 4 games though. He cleared protocols but was inactive anyway. I wonder if that might be linked to Dafney being good on ST in part too.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 05, 2021 at 06:35 pm

Concussions are really funky things. Even on the roster but not on the field. What kind of infighting was going on, hard to know. And Dafney did play more TE late in season, and he was good on ST too.

3 points
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PF4L's picture

February 05, 2021 at 05:55 pm

Stay tuned next week when we make excuses for Josh Jackson.

The following week we'll be discussing why Oren Burks was a 3rd round steal.

I'll bring the Kool Aid.

6 points
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PeteK's picture

February 05, 2021 at 06:08 pm

hahaha

-3 points
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PeteK's picture

February 05, 2021 at 06:11 pm

He was also Covid positive at the beginning of the season. He looked very promising at the end of 2019, but will have to fight hard for a spot in a cap stringent 2021.

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Coldworld's picture

February 05, 2021 at 06:28 pm

He is cheap, cap is not a factor for him. Unless there is real concern about the long term ramifications of his concussions he’s merely a prospect held back by injury, rendering the jury out.

5 points
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AdamPena's picture

February 05, 2021 at 07:22 pm

I vote to cut our losses at this point. Hopefully we can find some gems in the draft and finally make it through the NFC Championship round next year. I'm so tired of getting SO close! Do whatever we have to for Aaron to be happy for a couple more years, get him some weapons and let's freaking do this! Rams, 49'ers and Seahawks are making aggressive moves to try and win--we can't get left behind!

Go pack go!

Adam | https://spokanetreeremoval.org

-6 points
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canadapacker's picture

February 05, 2021 at 07:23 pm

Not knowing for sure - but it does appear that his offseason has not been a strong point. Everyone admires Dillon's thighs. Everybody admires the guys who pump up a lot of strength from their first training camp until their next training camp. This is definitely make it or break it for him because of the guys ahead of him. It would be unlikely if the Pack keeps 5 guys if Sternberger doesnt show up to camp - whatever that is going to be in some sort of super fit shape - Tonyon Degura Dafney with Lovett there also and one of the new guys who might be good on special teams. Sternberger got hurt on special teams didnt he?
I am still waiting for us to get a TE who can break tackles and get big plays - Tonyon does when he is open but we need a Kelce /Kittle type of guy and these guys have not done that yet but maybe Degura is the guy.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

February 06, 2021 at 01:40 am

Dafney is more FB, Deguara a true HB/TE, the two receiving TEs are Tonyan and Sternberger. Lewis would be the luxury Y blocker with limited reps. Do not see Lovette making the squad.

4 points
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canadapacker's picture

February 06, 2021 at 10:20 am

All I am saying is that they carry 5 ( so called) Tight ends. I would like to see Lewis back if he can play like he did this year. He had way less penalties than Tonyon for holding and always seems to block the correct guy and surprised some defenses catching when he was able to leak out after blocking. Sternberger hasnt proved able to be improved from his first year and if he doesnt he has the chance not to make the squad. But we need a backup to Tonyon who can catch those TD passes and get open. That probably will be Deguara if he comes back healthy and strong. Tonyon needs to improve his blocking as he missed many on those wide receiver screens and also got caught holding a couple of times . But he is a slippery guy playing with a lot of confidence right now. I hope Lovette gets a chance as does Dafney and make the team as a special teams guys which Lovette was doing before getting hurt - dont think that they can carry the rock but maybe he can be a lead blocker.

2 points
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BAMABADGER's picture

February 07, 2021 at 10:44 am

Agree with your comment about Strenberger's fitness. He looked no different in size and muscle mass from his rookie season. Definitely does not appear to be a weight room rat. I am tired with the saying TEs take time to develop. The quality TEs excel once they get the massive playbook down, particularly in season 2. Concussions might be his downfall. I'm sure GB keeps him because of his cheap rookie contract.

1 points
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GLM's picture

February 05, 2021 at 08:53 pm

If Deguara turns it on next season, and stays healthy, Jace could be the odd man out.

I like Sterberger, but he'll need to be available to be a starter.

2 points
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PhantomII's picture

February 05, 2021 at 08:55 pm

When watching the highlights of Sternbergers college days it was evident to me he would be really good at the NFL level. He was very smooth running routes and had good hands. Now....I don't know where this guy went. I watch Degura very early in the season and I said damn that guy is getting it going as a rookie. I was thinking Degura had a light go on instantly and Sternberger is much slower to get going. We can only hope this next season is all go for him. It would be really nice if the defenses had to defend him and Tonyan. We are really getting some talent in the TE/ Hback department. I don't think we will have a problem running on anyone if ML gets the right plays dialed up with Dillon running.

4 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

February 06, 2021 at 01:42 am

Sternberger was injured, not complex.

1 points
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PhantomII's picture

February 06, 2021 at 11:49 am

Degura showed out in his very first opportunity as a rookie and played like a vet in this system. That is the difference. Also not complex. When Sternberger was a healthy scratch for 3 plus games including playoffs and he still could not show anything, and was passed over for a UDFA it speaks volumes.

0 points
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stockholder's picture

February 05, 2021 at 09:35 pm

Bob Tonyan happened. He attached himself to Rodgers. Much like Adams. I'm here. I'll catch it. Coming back to the ball is what Rodgers Loves. When he can do that. Rodgers has another weapon.

4 points
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CoachDino's picture

February 06, 2021 at 05:08 am

For sure - I might even go so far as to say Lazard. When opportunity knocked he had prepared himself to make the most of it.

3 points
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ImaPayne's picture

February 05, 2021 at 10:19 pm

Maybe I'm wrong but werent concussions a problem at Wisconsin and numerous injuries? Dont know about Gutt and Ted but both seem to overlook injury records in their picks. King missed portions of two seasons in college with shoulder issues, one to each shoulder. Ya injury proness drafting is a big reason the packers always lead the league in injuries. The guys we got were there for a reason.

4 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

February 06, 2021 at 01:47 am

Sternberger played at Texas A&M and was a consensus All-American and All SEC. He previously was a WR at Kansas, then TE at a Junior College. No concussion history in college.

2 points
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Dzehren's picture

February 06, 2021 at 12:37 am

Concussion protocol. Jace cleared but still had issues post 1-1-21

-1 points
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egbertsouse's picture

February 06, 2021 at 07:27 am

I don’t see what a lot of people see in this guy. It looks to me like his ceiling is JAG. And that’s if he can beat the injury bug.

0 points
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HawkPacker's picture

February 06, 2021 at 08:08 am

The tight end position used to be a weak position for us. If both Sternberger and DeGuara come back next year as good as I am anticipating this will be a very strong position for the Packers.

0 points
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barutanseijin's picture

February 07, 2021 at 03:16 pm

Aside from getting hurt often, he dropped passes and got outplayed by other TEs. They contributed, Sternberger didn't. He's just a guy.

He wouldn't be the first guy to fail to make the transition to the pros successfully. It just takes that much more. NEXT!

0 points
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