Without Finley, Offense Must Adjust

We bring perspective to what is obvious: Jermichael Finley's injury leaves a major void at tight end. His production dwarfs the other tight ends' numbers, and a weakened receiver corps will make it harder for the offense to adjust.

How big is the void at tight end without Jermichael Finley?

Here's some perspective: Finley had five catches for 72 yards and one touchdown on Sunday against Cleveland. The rest of the Packers' tight ends combined have caught six passes for 39 yards.

And one more perspective: Finley caught 25 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns in, essentially, five games this season. The rest of the Packers' tight ends combined have caught 22 passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns since the start of the 2012 season.

The Packers, of course, have been down this road before. In 2010, Finley was nothing short of sensational. In the first four games, he caught 21 passes (out of 25 targets) for 301 yards and one touchdown before sustaining a season-ending knee injury on the first series in Week 5. Andrew Quarless, a rookie at the time, stepped in and needed the full season to match Finley's total of 21 receptions, which he turned into 238 yards and a score.

With Finley possibly out for the season again, the Packers again will be walking into the great unknown.

Yes, the Packers won the Super Bowl without Finley. That team also had an elite four-man receiving corps. At this point, only Jordy Nelson is a sure thing for Sunday at Minnesota.

The Packers have invested resources into the position but have received few dividends. Quarless, a fifth-round pick in 2010, is still finding his way after missing all of last season with a major knee injury. The team drafted D.J. Williams in the fourth round and Ryan Taylor in the seventh round in 2011; Williams was released at the end of training camp this summer and hasn't caught a pass for Jacksonville while Taylor, who is more of an asset on special teams than on offense, is out after knee surgery. The team also signed Matthew Mulligan in free agency; he was released at the end of camp and is playing for New England.

So, the Packers will try to retool on the fly with Quarless, who has caught four passes for 28 yards this season, Brandon Bostick, an undrafted free agent in 2012 who has played 13 snaps on offense this season, Jake Stoneburner, an undrafted free agent in 2013 who was promoted from the practice squad last week and played three snaps on Sunday, and, at some point, Taylor, who has caught two passes for 11 yards but dropped a potential touchdown against Detroit.

"We have three good tight ends," coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's important to define roles for those guys and make sure that we have a clear understanding. You never want to put too much on a young guy's plate. So, we're not going to go out there and ask you to do the things that Jermichael Finley did. That won't be the case."

A key could be Bostick, the former wide receiver from Division II Newberry. At 6-foot-3, he's 2 inches shorter than Finley but he's athletic and has good hands. Bostick has spent so much time around Finley that they share some mannerisms, right down to their preference for towels attached to their belt (long and narrow).

"He played well in his limited time in the game," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "He's gotten better as time has gone along. He's been playing a lot of special teams, he's doing well there, so I'm sure that helps his confidence. He just needs to carry it over to the offensive side of the ball."

A wild card could be Stoneburner, who had a productive career at Ohio State and showed he belonged from the first day of the rookie minicamp.

"For sure I'm ready," he said after the game. "I don't think they called me up for me not to be ready. They kept me around here for a reason. You know, I didn't play special teams in college, so I don't think they wanted me because I can run around and make tackles. That's not really my forte. I love doing it, but I think they brought me up hopefully to make an impact on this offense. Now with Jermichael down, who knows?""

YearFinleyOther TEs
201261-667-2 16-260-3

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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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