Training Camp Countdown: 15 Days

Packer Report continues pumping out fresh takes and hard-hitting analysis during this supposed lull before the training camp storm. Jermichael Finley is a favorite target of fans, but his history points to a big bounce-back season after a drop-filled 2011 campaign.

There are 15 days remaining until the Green Bay Packers kick off training camp.

Every day until the start of camp on July 26, we'll be giving you one juicy nugget to whet your appetite for the return of football. We'd give you more but the CBA forbids two-a-days. Sorry.

Finley's breakout season

It's easy — and convenient, to borrow one of Mike McCarthy's pet words when he disagrees with your opinion — to forget how good Jermichael Finley was during the second half of 2009 and the start of 2010.

He talks too much. He's selfish. He dropped far too many passes.

Never mind the first two items on that checklist. Just because Finley doesn't stick to the bland comments that have become such a part of sports doesn't make Finley a bad guy. He's a reporter's best friend, and not just because he's bound to say something interesting. He almost always has time and will stick around to answer every question.

"He's not that hard (to deal with)," McCarthy told Packers Plus' Rob Reischel. "I've had a lot more challenging situations. I think with Jermichael, people are on Jermichael a little bit too hard because he's the only one that carries himself that way. The guy has a big heart and he means well. He's extremely competitive and very talented. Everybody expresses themselves differently and obviously his style is very resourceful to the media, and that kind of takes on a different life. But I like him. I enjoy working with Jermichael. And if people didn't enjoy working with Jermichael Finley, then he wouldn't be here, and that's not the case."

The drops are the bigger issue. With 12 drops on 67 catchable passes, Finley posted a league-worst drop rate of 17.91 percent.

However, keep this in mind: In 2010, when Finley was set to dominate the league by catching a ridiculous 21 of 25 targeted passes in the first four games of the season, he didn't drop a single ball. In 2009, when he burst onto the scene by catching 44 passes in his final eight games (including playoffs), he dropped four of 59 catchable passes, giving him a drop rate of 6.78 percent that put him in the middle of the league and squarely between the likes of Jason Witten, Kellen Winslow, Dallas Clark and Antonio Gates.

Even with the drops, Finley averaged 2.01 yards per pass route over the last three seasons. That's the fourth-best figure in the league among tight ends, behind Jimmy Graham (2.31), Rob Gronkowski (2.29) and Gates (2.13), according to Considering all the other targets vying for Aaron Rodgers' attention, that's an impressive figure.

As Finley pointed out, when he had strong seasons in 2009 and the start of 2010, he had a full offseason of work with Rodgers. That's the case this year, as well. He's a year removed from the season-ending knee injury that ruined his 2010 campaign. The contract is behind him, too, as he's working under a two-year deal that gives him some peace of mind for this year.

With an embarrassment of riches at the skill positions, Finley might not improve much on his 55 receptions and eight touchdowns. The bet is, though, he'll have a much better season.

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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

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