Coaches Haven't Dropped Confidence in Finley

It's a small sample size, but Jermichael Finley is back among the league leaders with three dropped passes in the first two games, plus a costly lost fumble against Chicago.

Jermichael Finley entered this season exuding confidence.

That's nothing new, of course, for the Green Bay Packers' talented and talkative tight end. However, with his first 16-game season behind him, a knee injury further in the rearview mirror and the benefit of a full offseason working with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Finley insisted this would be the year when he'd put it all together.

The sample size is small, but Finley's struggles have continued.

A year after leading tight ends in dropped passes (12) and drop percentage (17.9) and finishing second among all players in drop percentage and fifth in drops, Finley has three drops to start this season. Only Dallas tight end Jason Witten (four) has more drops among tight ends and only Witten and Oakland running back Darren McFadden (four) have more drops among all players, based on data from ProFootballFocus.com and STATS.

The Packers' coaches, however, insist there's no reason to be worried.

"Really, any statistical matter, whether it's individual, unit or team, I don't think it's appropriate to be concerned after two weeks," coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday. "We just went through our first two games, which is our whole season so far. Corrected the tape in-depth, everybody gets a grade, everybody's evaluated so everyone understands where we are, both as a team, as a unit, individually, the wins and losses, and it's presented to the whole team so the accountability factor's there. Handling the football as a team is definitely a focus this week. We haven't caught the ball as well as we need to."

Finley is tied for sixth among NFL tight ends and is tied for the team lead with Jordy Nelson with 11 receptions. However, he's 16th among league tight ends with 73 receiving yards and 22nd in yards per catch after the catch with 2.0 average among tight ends with at least six receptions.

Counting drops are like scoring gymnastics in that you have to take level of difficulty into account and it's often a "subjective decision," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. Finley had two drops against San Francisco. A more lenient grader might have given Finley a free pass for his drop against Chicago, which needed a perfect throw from Aaron Rodgers to get past the linebacker but would have required Finley to make a leaping catch. Also in the Chicago game, Finley fumbled to eliminate at least a field-goal attempt.

Still, coaches say they continue to have confidence in one of the toughest matchups in the league. After missing time in training camp with a concussion and quad strain, Finley probably isn't quite in in-season form.

"Sure. Jermichael's a talented guy and we're confident in him," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said on the Friday after the Chicago game. "He's still an integral part of the offense."

Even if Finley's routinely dropped passes?

"I don't know if it's routinely," Clements said. "I don't know how you explain it. Everybody's human. He made a great catch after he had the turnover in the red zone. That was a very difficult catch. He has the ability and has confidence in himself and we have confidence in him."


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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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