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Why The Packers Could Keep 5 Tight Ends

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Why The Packers Could Keep 5 Tight Ends

Packer fans, and some media members, love to jump ahead and predict what the final 53 man roster will look like even before we've seen so much as a preseason game.

I'm not one to join in this absurdity, but with one preseason contest in the books, I've been getting a lot of questions about the tight end position and how I see it shaking out. The Packers are obviously deep at the position and could be forced to make some hard choices there.

Over the years, head coach Mike McCarthy has come to use his tight ends in a plethora of ways. From keeping them in the backfield for extra pass protection to lining them up out wide as receivers.

One of the things McCarthy likes to do is play games with defensive coordinators by sending out two tight ends, showing the defense a running formation and then using a play action pass, as seen below:

Notice how Finley is offset from the line of scrimmage. In this instance they are doing that in order to ensure he is able to get out into his route without impediment, but he could just as easily fire into the linebacker in order to block for a running play.

McCarthy is not afraid to go with as many as three tight ends on a single play, where he can either run:

Or pass:

Ted Thompson will keep the 53 best football players on his roster, and if five of them happen to play tight end, so be it. Don't forget, Thompson has not hesitated to keep 10 defensive linemen or, indeed, 3 fullbacks (two years in a row) in the past. Each of those decisions were driven by the fact that the players at those positions were deemed better football players than everything else on offer by the coaches and personnel staff. It will be no different this year with a very talented tight end group.

Of course, injuries could and most likely will play a big part in how these things shake out. That's why projecting 53 man rosters in early August is just silly. Already we've seen Andrew Quarless, Jermichael Finley and Tom Crabtree miss time due to injury. Obviously Finley is safe, but everyone else in that tight end group will be fighting like hell to get back on the field to make their case - that's what Thompson and McCarthy's draft and develop philosophy produces: hungry players eager to perform. Its something fans often lose sight of when talking about players: "Oh, he looks terrible" - not knowing that the player is fighting through the worst pain he's ever felt in his life just to be on the field.

Speaking of Crabtree, I figure this is as good a time as any to address something that has bugged me all year. Whenever commentators or fans speak about him, they always throw in the obligatory "strong blocking tight end" as though there is nothing else to his game. While he'll never be mistaken for the second coming of Tony Gonzalez, Crabtree has better hands than most people give him credit for and is good at adjusting to coverage.

A good example of Crabtree's ability in the passing game can be seen below:

Not bad for a "blocking guy" right? And don't forget his catch in the Super Bowl. It was only a one yard gain but it was a huge catch in the scheme of things, allowing the clock to run as the Packers were leading late. He showed great hands on that play, stretching out and hauling in a pass that Rodgers threw wide.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention the Packers draft picks at the position. D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor have impressed since camp began (Williams' pass protection gaff notwithstanding) Taylor in particular has looked like a steal for a player that was taken in the seventh round. He has caught everything thrown at him, has looked like a seasoned pro in blocking drills and did not look overwhelmed in the slightest in his first NFL action from scrimmage on Saturday night. He's also on most of the first units for kick coverage and kick returns, always a good sign for young players trying to stick on the roster.

I'm not saying anyone is a lock after Finley. I am saying that if five out of the six are kept at the position, I would not be surprised at all.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ken's picture

That one-yard catch by Crabtree easily could've been returned for a pick-six if he doesn't get his head around and snag it as he did.

It's cliche, but it comes down to Special Teams and all TEs on the roster do it better than Quinn Johnson.

And on that note, isn't Raji our goal-line FB anyway? I ask only half-jokingly.

D.D. Driver's picture

Wow. This is bold. 5TEs and 5WRs?

I think the Packers may have to move someone.

packeraaron's picture

Why not? It's only bold if it forces you to go light (talent wise) at another position. I don't see that happening.

ibleedgrnngold's picture

we go light at FB. TEs play fullback. Awesome options ensue.

Ryeguy812's picture

Oh Crabtree, he takes that outside and uses Drivers block he might still be running.
By keeping 5 TEs does that spell the end for Quinn Johnson? Do the Packers see the TE as kind of a TE/FB hybrid in the running game? Looks that way. Speculate!!!!!

CSS's picture

Texans just let Vonte Leach walk because his contract was too expensive considering the lack of production outside of his blocking. Many of their packages last night used an athletic TE named James Casey. He was used as a lead blocker, pass catching option and split out for pass pro on either side when audibled.

Fewer teams carry true FB's on their roster, more are using TE's in the backfield. Ryan Taylor looks best equipped as a blocker, receiving option. High football IQ.

dougie smooth's picture

do you even know what a plethora is?

packeraaron's picture

I thought it meant a form of "too many" - but I'm now thinking that is incorrect and you have come to chide me...

CSS's picture

Three Amigos reference, no? Well done...

packeraaron's picture

(headslap) Of course! Nice. Well, I guess I just shot the invisible swordsman...

D.D. Driver's picture

It's a sweater!

dougie smooth's picture

haha, good save!

Nononsense's picture

Im thinking 5 WRs 5 TEs is a good bet to make for the final 53.

I will admit I was pulling for Gurley or Smithson to make the roster as the 6th WR at the expense of the 5th TE but after seeing both in action against Cleveland im not sure that would be a good move.

TEs offer more versatility to the offense as MR. Nagler has illustrated. If its a choice between a 6th WR a 5th TE or Quinn Johnson then it should be an easy decision.

Franklin Hillside's picture

"You can never have enough tight ends."

-Grandpa Hillside
(while at a bikini carwash in Oshkosh, so I'm not really sure he meant football players)

Mojo's picture

I like Grandpa Hillside

Mojo's picture

Don't want to brag... but I brought up the one FB, five TE possibility in response to a question over a month ago. Do I get a cookie? Now watch, it will end up being three FBs and three TEs

packeraaron's picture

"I don't mean to brag...but I'm the greatest!"


PkrNboro's picture

I don't understand why you think it's absurd, or silly, to contemplate a 53 man roster.

Evaluating talent is fun!

It's interesting to see who advances, and who declines. Sadly, injuries can impact not only one position, but both sides of the line.

It would be absurd, or silly, if you went to Vegas to wager a large sum of money on the topic...

packeraaron's picture

I just don't like projecting how things will shake out with absolutely nothing to base it on other than what I've read in the local paper or on Twitter. Even after watching four preseason games its tough to get a handle on how the 53 will shake out.

But I understand what you're saying...

PkrNboro's picture

"nothing to base it on" ?

You've got your "draft grades"!

...never mind.

Jordan's picture

It would be nice if Cheesehead TV used it's connections with NFL scouts and NFL personnel people to evaluate Tom Crabtree's blocking based on his game film. Not sure if I would call him a "strong blocking tightend". I think I would call him a fringe NFL player that will be struggling to make any NFL roster.

Crabtree will be cut.

Jimmy K's picture

Jordon,and this question goes to anyone else who would like to respond, here is the situation, it is 3rd and 10 and the defense is showing a blitz, now which one of the tight ends do you want in there to block the Packers most valuable asset (if did not know their most valuable asset is it is Rodgers)? This will answer the a lot of questions.

PackersRS's picture

Ha! That's a trick question! Because the answer is none.

You want your TE running routes on 3rd and long. You want your RB in blocking. And that would be Kuhn (a FB, but a RB in this case). That's how MM's offense works, most of the time.

PackersRS's picture

Crabtree is a strong blocker compared to what we had till last year at the position.

But with the rookies actually playing well, I don't think he sticks. If it comes to him or Quarless, they'll keep the later out of potential.

Jimmy K's picture

Are you kidding me, I watch every play of that game and watch the rookie tight ends and just about every time on running or pass blocking they were being shoved around or missing assignments. Not to say at some point they will get better but after miss the complete off season there is no way they will be ready to take on the Saints on opening day.

PackersRS's picture

Right, it's not about being ready the first week of regular season, is it???

Is this the Eagles?

packeraaron's picture

I wouldn't be surprised either way but, to be clear, nowhere above did I say he was a "strong blocking tightend" - I refereed to what a lot of OTHER people say about him.

That said, I have spoken to many people, who both work for the Packers and for other teams, in pro personnel who think Tom's pass blocking is severely underrated. He needs to work on his blocking in the run game, especially in-line.

Jimmy K's picture

Sorry, I ment to say, block to protect the packers most valuable asset.

PkrNboro's picture

One thing I will say for Crabtree, he didn't appear to take the vicious (head) shots that Quarless did.

I don't know if this is a case of Crabtree running better routes, or "adjusting to coverage." I thought Crabtree was the victim of some crappy passes last season, where he's trying to grab a ball 3 feet behind him, or off his shoes.

A lasting impression of the guys from last season: Quarless gettin' bitched at by Rodgers, for not being in the right place; Crabtree making a catch and lumbering forward with 3 or 4 tacklers on him.

Jimmy K's picture

I forgot about that happening but everybody is ready to king the two rookies as the next coming of the lord at their position, just like everybody did last season with Quarless and we saw how that turned out.

PackersRS's picture

Who did it last season with Quarless? I remember quite the opposite.

Jimmy K's picture

No during the preseason and fall camp everybody thought Quarless was going to be the number 2 tighten behind Finley before they had even one practice.

CSS's picture

I can only recall him being discussed as a raw, 5th round draft pick and nothing else. Not sure who 'everybody' is.

And the coaching staff must have considered him the best receiving option behind Finley (hence the #2 spot) because the kid was getting Finley's routes and Finley's reps. He was the only other TE on the roster capable of getting separation on those routes against cover-2.

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