NFC North Tour: TE Breakdown

In the third part of our NFC North personnel previews, we examine the division's tight ends. We lead off with the Green Bay Packers' talented Jermichael Finley, who needs to stay healthy to get a big payday.

Green Bay Packers

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

GM Ted Thompson cut across the standard 53-man roster grain by keeping three fullbacks the last two seasons. This time, he went 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 remains ahead of the enticing rookie duo of Williams and Taylor, who were late-round picks, not to mention young holdover Crabtree, who's the best blocker of the group.

Chicago Bears

Starter: Matt Spaeth. Backups: Kellen Davis, Kyle Adams.

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. Desmond Clark was brought back for a 13th season but released among the final cuts in favor of Adams, a rookie from Purdue who was one of five undrafted rookies to make the team. He's been a stalwart on special teams and has pitched in at fullback.

Detroit Lions

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

It will be interesting to see how Stafford uses Pettigrew. With Shaun Hill getting most of the snaps last year at quarterback, Pettigrew set a Lions record with 71 catches and 722 yards. Matthew 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.

Minnesota Vikings

Starter — Visanthe Shiancoe. Backups — Jim Kleinsasser, Kyle Rudolph, Allen Reisner

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. Offensive coordinator Bill 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 excellent 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. Reisner was a second-team all-Big Ten pick as a senior after catching 42 passes for 460 yards and two touchdowns. He caught three passes in the preseason for 54 yards.

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