NFC North Tour: Tight Ends

The 53-man rosters are set for Week 1. Let's continue examining, by position, how the four NFC North teams stack up against each other heading into 2011. Next up, tight ends.

Chicago Bears

Starter -- Matt Spaeth. Backups -- Kellen Davis.

Greg Olsen was traded because his pass-catching, weak-blocking type is not what Martz wants from the tight ends in his offense. Spaeth and Davis are both 6-foot-7 and considered more blockers than pass catchers, although both could pass for NBA players with their long, lean body types. Both are capable of figuring in the pass game, but that won't be their primary responsibilities. Spaeth and Davis are both considered to have some upside.

Detroit Lions

Starter -- Brandon Pettigrew. Backups - Tony Scheffler, Will Heller.

It will be interesting to see how Stafford uses Pettigrew. With Hill getting most of the snaps last year, Pettigrew set a Lions record with 71 catches and 722 yards. Stafford, though, likes to throw down field more than Hill did. Pettigrew is too big a talent to completely ignore, as is Scheffler. The Lions used Scheffler as a slot receiver at times last season. He is hoping for a bounce back year after catching 45 passes last season. Heller is a valuable piece of this offense. He is the best blocking tight end on the team and has the versatility to play the H-back role when needed.

Green Bay Packers

Starter -- Jermichael Finley. Backups -- Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor.

Thompson cut across the standard 53-man roster grain by keeping three fullbacks the last two seasons. He may go the extraordinary route this season by hanging onto five tight ends. The 6-foot-5 Finley, who lost 15 pounds to get to 240, is at a whole other level for the devastation he can cause in stretching the field against helpless linebackers and defensive backs. Still, his incessant chatter this preseason about revolutionizing the tight end position won't be taken seriously until he produces on the field for a full season, which he hasn't done as a pro -- his career-high 55 catches in 2009 is like a distant memory. So far, Thompson hasn't budged on extending Finley's rookie contract, now in its final year. Quarless, a second-year player, was up and down on the field in the preseason after being out early with a hip injury. He could be deemed expendable since the Packers have an enticing rookie duo of Williams and Taylor as late-round picks, not to mention young holdover Crabtree as the best blocker of the group.

Green Bay Packers

Starter -- Visanthe Shiancoe. Backups -- Jim Kleinsasser, Kyle Rudolph.

Shiancoe did not play during the preseason because of a hamstring injury and it remains to be seen if that will bother him entering the regular season. The Vikings certainly want to see Shiancoe at 100 percent, given how much the tight end is expected to be used in this offense. Musgrave was the quarterbacks coach in Atlanta before joining the Vikings and brings with him a system that relied on tight end Tony Gonzalez to catch plenty of passes. Gonzalez was second on the Falcons last season with 70 receptions and six touchdowns. Rudolph was taken in the second round out of Notre Dame and, like Shiancoe, has very good hands. He should be used in two and three tight end sets. Kleinsasser hasn't had more than 20 catches in a season since 2005 but that could change. The 13-year veteran also is an outstanding blocker and can lineup as an H-back.


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