McCarthy Uses TE Depth With New Package

We break down the ultimate unscouted look: a three-tight-end set that the Packers didn't even show in training camp, much less the preseason. They got plenty of mileage out of that package during the season-opening win against the Saints.

Mike McCarthy's genius as an offensive-minded coach might not be as a play-caller as much as it is his seemingly limitless number of personnel packages.

There's "The Bone," the inverted wishbone look that flourished with fullback John Kuhn running behind fullbacks Quinn Johnson and Korey Hall last year.

There's "Big Five," featuring all five receivers on the field to take advantage of a deep position group.

And now, there's a three-tight-end "Jumbo" package to take advantage of the depth at that position group.

The Packers kept that look top secret until Thursday's season-opening victory over New Orleans. In the ultimate unscouted look, not only did the Packers not show it during the four preseason games, they didn't line up in it once during training camp. Instead, the work was done during walkthrough sessions in the team's gymnasium and a couple of pre-practice workouts in the Don Hutson Center.

Green Bay lined up with three tight ends eight times against the Saints — including five times during a second-quarter possession that ended in a touchdown. Most of the time, Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree and rookie D.J. Williams were the tight ends alongside either Ryan Grant and James Starks in the backfield and James Jones as the receiver. On one snap early in the fourth quarter, the Packers went with three tight ends and Starks and Kuhn in the backfield. On that play, Kuhn scored a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal.

The Packers unveiled the package during their second drive of the game. With Finley, Williams and Crabtree all lined up to the right, Grant rumbled for 10 yards due in large part to Crabtree's powerful blocking. During a five-snap series of three tight ends in the second quarter, Finley and Crabtree powered Starks' 10-yard run. In all, the Packers ran six times out of three tight ends for 31 yards, with that 5.2-yard average weighed down by Kuhn's short touchdown and when Starks was dropped in the backfield for a 2-yard loss.

The Packers threw just twice out of the personnel grouping. On the first, coming midway through the second quarter, Aaron Rodgers was forced to throw it away when Williams — who had motioned into the backfield — failed to pick up a blitz off the edge. On that same drive, after Starks' 2-yard loss, Rodgers hit Crabtree for 4 yards to convert third-and-3. Starks rumbled for a 17-yard touchdown out of a three-receiver set one play later.

There's more in the playbook, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said.

"You can't be one-dimensional" Philbin told Packer Report on Thursday. "If you roll those three guys out there and you run it every time, it might work for one game but it's not going to last for a long time. You've got to have some balance in what you're doing."

"Obviously," Philbin added, "when you roll three tight ends in the game, some teams are going to play you for the run. So, you've got to be careful about how much you use it and what your tendencies are in that personnel group. But it gives you a chance to spread them out. Instead of having a bunch of running backs in the backfield, you can expand the gaps up front a little bit by lining a bunch of tight ends up close to the line of scrimmage. It might give you some softness up front."

The package is yet another way for McCarthy to keep defenses off-balance. Three tight ends mean extra blockers in the run game. However, if a defense chooses to counter with big bodies to stop the run, the tight ends can use their athleticism to make plays in the passing game.

"It was fun getting that personnel out there," Williams said. "I feel like we all have the ability to run block and run routes. If you recall Crabtree's catch, earlier (on Grant's 10-yard run in the first quarter), we had bunched up and ran the ball. On the one to Crabtree, we all split out and it caught the defense off-guard and got them in a personnel group that we wanted them in. So, I can see it being an advantage personnel-wise for the offense."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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