Looking Back/Ahead: Tight End

We review 2013 with our good, bad, surprise and grade, plus take a look at what's ahead in 2014. The loss of Jermichael Finley can't be overstated, as his impact in the passing game and running game — yes, the running game — demonstrate. Tight end will be a major position of need in the draft.

In Part 3 of our season-ending review of the Green Bay Packers, we look back and ahead at tight end.

DEPTH CHART: 2013

Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor and Jake Stoneburner. (Jermichael Finley and Brandon Bostick on injured reserve.)

UNDER CONTRACT: 2014

Bostick, Stoneburner, Taylor.

2013 REVIEW

The grade: C. Finley was well on his way to a monster season, even after missing most of the Week 3 game with a concussion, but sustained a neck injury during the Week 7 game against Cleveland. He finished with 25 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns. What was most impressive was his work after the catch. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Finley had 238 yards after the catch. Among tight ends with at least 25 catches, Finley led the league with 9.5 yards after the catch per reception. Almost unbelievably considering he missed the final 10 games, Finley tied for seventh among tight ends by forcing 10 missed tackles.

Without him, the production evaporated. The rest of the tight ends combined caught 45 receptions for 460 yards and three touchdowns. Just 218 yards came after the catch and they combined to elude five tackles.

None of the tight ends emerged as a run blocker. Finley, of course, was never much of a run blocker, either, but his presence forced teams to defend the Packers differently. With Finley on the field, the Packers averaged 5.65 yards per carry, according to league data. Only Minnesota's Rhett Ellison (5.66) presence meant more to the run game, according to the league.

The good: Finley finally was on his way to putting everything together. Like in 2013, Finley was playing for a contract in 2011. In 2011, Finley caught 55-of-91 passes (60.4 percent), dropped 12 passes and had 240 yards after the catch, according to ProFootballFocus.com. In 2013, Finley caught 25-of-34 passes (73.5 percent), dropped two passes and practically matched his YAC. Then Finley was injured against Cleveland and his career is in jeopardy.

The bad: Nobody expected Quarless to replace Finley but his play was a disappointment, nonetheless. Before a serious knee injury sustained late in the 2011 season, Quarless had emerged as the unit's best blocker. He might have been the best blocker in 2013, too, but that's a back-handed compliment. At one point, tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot, so disappointed in his unit's blocking, showed his players video of the wide receivers successfully blocking 250-pound defensive ends/linebackers. Quarless got better as the season progressed, both in the run and pass game, but he's anything but a priority to be re-signed — Finley's cloudy future notwithstanding.

The surprise: None, really. Other than Finley, none of the tight ends stood out in training camp. That Quarless and Bostick beat out D.J. Williams and Matthew Mulligan had more to do with the disappointing performances of Williams and Mulligan than anything the others did. So, that the Packers got such lackluster play from their tight ends after Finley's injury is about what was expected.

The coach says: "I think production-wise, we obviously felt an impact there without Jermichael. To ask anybody to get the yards after catch and yards after contact that he gets is probably not fair. We wanted our drop percentage down, and that was definitely down. Protection-wise, I thought we did a good job. Run game-wise, I think we can do better. Other than that, I think that the guys did a good job of helping each other out. Andrew did a great job of taking the young guys and helping them along, and Ryan, as well. In terms of that, I thought that they picked up the slack." — Fontenot

2014 LOOKAHEAD

The Packers simply have to get better at a position featured by coach Mike McCarthy. It's hard to believe the Packers, with their conservative medical staff, will bring back Finley at any price. Quarless might be a decent No. 2 tight end but he's not a 16-game, 60-snaps-per-game player. Bostick, the former Division II receiver and basketball player, might develop into a solid role player. Maybe Stoneburner emerges after doing little more than tie for the team lead in special-teams penalties. Taylor is what he is: a key performer on special teams.

So, for as much help as the Packers need on defense, look for them to invest early in a tight end. One name to remember: Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins.


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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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