Midterm Report: Tight Ends

With the Packers enjoying a much-needed bye, we continue our position-by-position report on the team with the tight ends. Jermichael Finley has been living on potential for two years now and has been supplanted by Tom Crabtree as the unit's big-play performer.

Packer Report's position-by-position midseason review continues with the tight ends.


Last week, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy passed along an interesting story. A few weeks ago, he called Jermichael Finley into his office and turned on some film of Finley running roughshod over the Arizona Cardinals in a 2009 playoff loss.

Finley has lived on that game and his dominant start to 2010 for a couple of years. At what point do the words "potential" and "promise" become nothing more than hot air? At what point does it set in that the Finley of 2011 and the first half of 2012 is the real deal?

Among tight ends, Finley is the epitome of mediocre. With 29 receptions, Finley is tied for 15th. With 271 yards, he's tied for 20th. With a catch percentage of 64.4, he ranks 21st among the 29 tight ends with at least 20 receptions. Finley has scored one touchdown – 22 have scored more often. Based on ProFootballFocus.com's numbers, only Jimmy Graham (eight) has dropped more passes than Finley (seven).

To Finley's credit, that "potential" helps the offense. Defensive coordinators know they'll eventually get killed if they try to cover Finley with a linebacker. He's played hurt, too, though he's seen his snaps cut dramatically since injuring his shoulder at Indianapolis in Week 5.

"Jermichael, he's a guy that needs to get as many reps as he can on the (practice) field to get a feel of what it's going to be like on Sunday," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said on Monday. "I think that with the limited amount of reps that he took the past couple of weeks, it showed up a little bit on the field in the sense that he didn't play every down that we probably would have wanted him to. Production-wise, it's not where we want it and we're always working for improvement."

Report card

-- Jermichael Finley: Finley (29 catches, 271 yards, 9.3 average, one touchdown) caught seven passes and scored one touchdown in the opener against San Francisco but has caught a total of seven passes in the four games since being knocked out of the Indianapolis game with an injured shoulder. In the four games before the injury, he caught 19-of-27 passes (70.4 percent) and averaged 56 snaps. In the four games since the injury, he caught 7-of-13 passes (53.8 percent) and averaged 34 snaps. Give him credit for toughness, and he delivered the key block on Randall Cobb's first touchdown catch last week. Grade: D.

-- Tom Crabtree: If any player personifies this team, it's Crabtree (six catches, 183 yards, 30.5 average, three touchdowns). With half of the starting lineup out with injuries, leave it to Crabtree to deliver the defining play of last week's game with a 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown. A gritty blocker, he's used that reputation to his advantage as the team's resident big-play artist. Of his six catches, he's got a 27-yard touchdown on a fake field goal, a 48-yard touchdown on third-and-1 and the 72-yarder. Grade: C-plus.

-- D.J. Williams: Williams (four catches, 37 yards, 9.3 average) had a big training camp but hasn't parlayed that into anything meaningful, even with Finley's injury and inconsistency. He's caught 4-of-9 passes with two drops. He missed the Houston game with an injured hamstring, which he aggravated last week. Grade: D-minus.

-- Ryan Taylor: One of the top members of the special teams, Taylor (no catches) has been used mainly as a blocker on offense. He had the key block on Alex Green's 41-yard run against Indianapolis and a massive block on Cobb's punt return last week. Grade: C-minus.

-- Andrew Quarless: Quarless was activated from the physically unable to perform list this week. Grade: Incomplete.

Number to note

8: Consecutive games without a touchdown for Finley, the longest stretch of his career. It took him until his seventh professional game to score his first touchdown. Otherwise, his longest stretch was four games (Games 5, 6, 10 and 11 in 2009).


Position coach Jerry Fontenot: "At this point in the season, what I've always experienced as a player is my fundamentals slipped. So, it's a critical time to work on fundamentals. Coach gave us some time last week to work some individual drills. Hopefully, we'll be able to continue that the rest of the season. With what you need to get done on the field, there's a lot of give and take. Fundamentals tend to be the thing, as a player, that start tailing off at the end of the season. So, my job is to keep them adamantly about that and work them diligently when we can."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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