Tight End Position Full Of Buts For The Packers

There's a lot of fan favorites in the Packers Tight End group, but... 

The Packers, as a franchise, have struggled at tight end for a couple decades. 

They've lacked consistency and stability at the position since Mark Chmura.

Jermichael Finley looked ready to break out, but got hurt. Jared Cook had a nice season on a prove it deal, but after proving it, he wasn't re-signed. Jimmy Graham was a terrible pickup and Jace Sternberger was a wasted draft pick. Guys like Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers were serviceable, but short-lived.

Now, the Packers have loaded up the tight end room for an offense that loves multiple tight ends... but can any of them make a difference? 

Robert Tonyan probably shows the most promise after leading all NFL tight ends in touchdowns not so long ago, but he has a torn ACL and is stuck in rehab. There are rumors that he could be ready for Week 1, but I'm not holding my breath. He tore his ACL 8 months ago. For reference, David Bakhtiari isn't practicing after tearing his ACL almost 19 months ago. He may be an outlier, but the Packers are notoriously cautious in allowing players to return from major injuries. ACL tears don't ruin as many careers as they did in the 80's, but they're still tough to come back from and the first year back usually isn't the best. Many players report their 2nd year back is the first time they feel normal. Tonyan might be back this season, but he probably won't be back to his old self.

Marcedes Lewis has been a dependable vet, but he's 38 and his body can't hold out forever. He's the last remaining player from the 2006 draft class. Think about that. Kids born that year have their driver's  licenses. Even the kickers and punters from that year have seen their bodies wear out or their effectiveness wane to the point they're out of the league. Sure, he keeps in shape, but at a physical position, his body could give out at any time.

Josiah Deguara is two years removed his ACL injury, but what do we know about him? He had a nice score on a broken play in garbage time in a meaningless Week 18 game last year, but other than that... we've barely seen glimpses.

Dominique Dafney is a nice story, but he hasn't done anything to suggest he's even low-end starter material.

Tyler Davis has been an offseason darling, but he has 4 career catches and is basically a complete unknown.

Alize Mack was a guy I really liked coming out of college, but he's on his 5th team after being drafted 3 years ago.

Eli Wolf has a cool last name, but he's played in as many pro games as I have.

There you have it. The Packers have 7 tight ends on their roster, but there isn't a single one that you can point to and say with confidence will be a producer in 2022.

A lot will have to get sorted out in training camp, but at this point there isn't much evidence to suggest there's a breakout player on the roster.

Matt LaFleur loves multiple tight end sets and, with a lot of unknowns in the receiving corps, the tight end group will be asked to carry a larger part of the load.

Will they be able to rise to the occasion?

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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3 points

Comments (32)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Johnblood27's picture

June 26, 2022 at 06:44 am

Band Aids and prayers.

Like I have posted before concerning the TE position in GB/MLF offense, if you need 5 of them to execute your offense you don't have a TE friendly offense.

If who is on the field limits your offensive scheme, then the advantage goes to the defense.

If you don't have a TE that is whole-scheme capable, then you need to limit that, not feature that.

Get one you say? Not so fast my friend, whole-scheme capable TE do not grow on trees.

They are drafted and developed. Think about the draft capital that GB has used on TE... go ahead, keep thinking... 3rd round picks are at the top until you reach back to Bubba Franks.

Signing free agents sounds nice, but to sign real stars takes buckets of cash and AR has a monopoly on the GB buckets.

It may be time to admit that the position takes a high pick to fill. Maybe we can cut down to 2 OL next draft and use a meaningful pick on a talented TE to develop - unless Tonyan regains his one-year-wonder form and then doesn't hold the team hostage for buckets of cash - keep dreaming...

Lower round picks and free agents can be coached up to fulfill one or more of the TE requirements, but to get a player talented enough to be a 3-down TE you have to invest a little more than GB has allotted for the position. Pigs ears and silk purses, camels and needles, chicken salad and chicken shit, you get the picture...

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BruceIrons's picture

June 26, 2022 at 09:59 am

From what LaFleur said in his press conferences, his offense has 3 types of tight ends.

Based on their roster choices the last few years, it seems like they want a pass catcher (Tonyan), an in-line blocker (Lewis), and a mobile blocker (Deguara). There isn't a tight end alive that can fill all those roles at a high level, so they need role players that can handle niche assignments.

This is how LaFleur runs his offense - by utilizing specialists at what they're good at. It's the opposite of McCarthy, who build his offense around dominant superstars.

If a few of these guys can just be solid, the offense should be ok. If not, LaFleur will need to get creative.

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Johnblood27's picture

June 28, 2022 at 07:27 am

Like I said, if MLF's offense has easy "tells" for the defense based upon the one-dimensional aspects of his TE group, maybe that needs to be revised.

If it takes 5-6 players to man the TE positions with proper skill related to expectations including redundancy of function so injury doesn't scrap chunks of the game plan, how much does a scheme like that take away from other position groups on the offense?

One or two less OL, WR, RB? Where is the true value to the offense?

Seems to me that 3 TE on the active roster and 4 on the 56 with 1 or 2 on the PS should be able to handle the tasks set forth in a reasonable and balanced offensive scheme. If this isn't the case, better TE need to be sought while the scheme is pared down until such time as adequate TE talent has been found and coached up.

If the MLF offensive scheme is so dependent upon TE play, perhaps more resource - draft capital, FA $$$ - should have been allocated to gathering adequate talent to operate without the downside of "tells" due to lack of skill dimensionality of the individuals in the TE group.

Maybe these questions and observations simply reveal a weakness in the MLF scheme?

These are reasonable questions.

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stockholder's picture

June 26, 2022 at 06:48 am

Since Jermicheal Finley. The TE position has been a revolving door; For sure. Not to mention the wasted money. So looking at the Boom or Bust here. It might be Time to try something else. Forget the chemistry. Forget the front runner. Forget the Roll model. The packers should "not" have been in this position at all. Not with the All-pros they've had.
The top 5 TEs in the NFL, have the right measurements. Speed. And Hands. The packers have become too reliant on veterans. Cast -offs. WRs. And protecting Rodgers with a TE. But enough is enough.
My first thought, is to over-draft the position. Fill the cupboard. Let the draft process work here. They've tried everything else.
Veterans know when the "right guy" walks on the field. And who cares where he came from. They're a game changer.
And thats the PUMP here. They don't have the Game changer.

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beerandbrats's picture

June 26, 2022 at 07:25 am

I was pretty surprised when the Packers kept passing on TEs during the draft, considering DA had just left, Tonyan was hurt and we needed pass catchers. I'd also like to know what happened to Funchess in GB, now that Detroit has picked him up and made him a TE. He must have really worn out his welcome in GB?

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wildbill's picture

June 26, 2022 at 09:46 am

Just because the Lions are making him a TE doesn’t mean he will be a good one. Also I’m sure there might be an instance where a veteran WR successfully transitioned to TE but in my 60 years of watching the NFL one doesn’t come to mind. A good blocking WR is normally blocking a DB, not someone like our Gary.

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Rarescope's picture

June 27, 2022 at 10:13 pm

Glad to hear Funchess got picked up I was devastated when he got injured in preseason. Not a superstar but he seemed like someone Eodgers would throw the ball to. Knock on wood but we’ve had our share of injuries the past couple years that make what if a really fun game to play.

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NickPerry's picture

June 26, 2022 at 07:37 am

Tonyon was a nice story two years ago but if you recall he wasn't off to a blazing start before being injured last season. Basically, he's a one-year wonder who had a pretty crappy start to the season following his one-year wonder season...And then he tore his ACL. Having him back is great, but I'm not expecting much out of him at all.

Lewis is fine as a blocker and can get you a 1st down from time to time. But the man IS 38 years old. Hey, being a man in my 60's now 38 seems pretty damn young. But in the NFL if you're 38 you're usually a kicker or a future HOF QB at the end of your career.

Deguara was never supposed to be MLF's George Kittle, he was supposed to be MLF's version of Kyle Juszczyk. He was drafted during a pandemic and injured a few games into the 2020 season. As Bruce alluded to ACL's take time so Deguara probably wasn't 100% last year so THIS is the season of Deguara...HOPEFULLY! Whether he's closer to a Juszczyk to a Kittle remains to be seen. I'd settle for a Deguara with 50 catches, 8 TD's, and 700 yards.

Daffney is fine as an ST player and occasional blocker but not much more. Tyler Davis is the newest new UDFA which we're supposed to be excited about. Hey, if the kid can catch like 50 of those passes as he caught against the Ravens then great. But I'm not holding my breath.

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PeteK's picture

June 26, 2022 at 10:56 am

I agree, Dequara will improve this season. If Davis catches 30 passes it will be a great bonus.

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Slim11's picture

June 27, 2022 at 09:23 am

"Tonyon was a nice story two years ago but if you recall he wasn't off to a blazing start before being injured last season."

True statement, but incomplete. Tonyan was off to a slower start for two reasons. First, he's no longer an unknown weapon in the Packers' offense. Opposing defenses had to pay attention to him.

Second, and perhaps more telling, is Bahktiari's absence. Tonyan was kept in to chip block helping Nijman during his first few starts at LT. After the chip block, then he released to run his route. By this time during a play, he's a second read for the QB, maybe a third read. With Adams on the field, did Rodgers or Love get to that second/third read?

I read something on another site yesterday implying Tonyan might be progressing faster in his recovery because his ACL injury was a complete tear instead of a partial tear. The article said recoveries from partial tears are sometimes more complicated than recovery from a full tear. I hope he doesn't try to return too soon.

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ImaPayne's picture

June 28, 2022 at 10:30 pm

Lewis may be even older but he is cheap

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Guam's picture

June 26, 2022 at 07:51 am

The Packer offense is going to have some significant challenges this year. I like the O-line (assuming Bahk and Jenkins return eventually), the running backs and the quarterbacks, but the receiving group (WRs and TEs) has more holes than Swiss cheese. The WR group has some potential with between older players and three draft choices, but the TE group added no draft choices this year. I really hope Tonyan makes a quick recovery and Deguara finds his footing and has a breakout season. Otherwise the Packers are going to have a great blocking TE and not much else. And MLFs offense is going to have a huge hole.

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mrtundra's picture

June 26, 2022 at 08:13 am

What I'd like to see the most is that Bobby Tonyan comes back, fully recovered, from his ACL injury and has a great season for us. Although recent reporting has said he could be back for the beginning of the season, I would not rush things. Let him be fully healed and we will see when the medical staff says he is ready to play. In the mean time, we can rely on Big Dog, Dafney, DeGuara and Davis to take over the TE spots. Big Dog will always have a spot at TE for GB. Dafney did not play much, on Offense, for GB, but did contribute on STs where he was serviceable on Kick and Punt coverage. DeGuara is the guy I think most coaches want on the field, when he is healthy. He can catch the ball and block. That's just what MLF wants from his TEs. IMO, Davis will surprise a lot of people, this season, at TE, as I feel he will have a big year. Recent talk of acquiring OJ Howard, is I think, just talk. He always seems to be injured, so he might fit right in with the Packers. After the Waller talk faded, it seemed clear that we were not going after any TE in FA. We may wait and see who sets cut from other teams' training camp rosters and get someone there. One guy I wish we had in GB, is Mark Andrews. Not happening, but I can dream, can't I? Also wondering if the Packers picked up any TEs from the UDFA lists?

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PatrickGB's picture

June 26, 2022 at 08:42 am

TE (and all it’s forms like H,&F) is supposed to take a lot of time to learn. From what I can tell it’s blocking guys bigger than you, catching around guys faster than you and running interference against more people than you have with you. I guess when you have those guys then you hang on to them because they are hard to grow.

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lou's picture

June 26, 2022 at 09:14 am

The team has not had a "total" (receiving & blocking combination) Tight End since Bubba Franks who was a #1 draft pick and had 8 solid seasons for the Packers. If you can find a combo of Chumra & Jackson to produce the same results fine but that happens rarely and the overall talent level of the current group provides one or the other traits and based on who is on the field the defense can react accordingly. Losing Tonyan the only receiving threat really left a void and based on losing our LT all of the TE's had chip responsibility to aide his replacement which reduces your play calling flexibility and the number of receiving options you have. I was very surprised they did not draft a TE or bring in a Kyle Rudolph type vet to get them through the early part of the season assuming Tonyan starts on the PUP list.

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wildbill's picture

June 26, 2022 at 09:59 am

Loved Bubba, great blocking TE and was king of the 2yard TD reception. But he didn’t come close to stretching the field as his career high is 31 yards and most years his high was low 20s. Would love to have a young Bubba on this team

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Gman1976's picture

June 26, 2022 at 05:34 pm

PLEASE NO MORE BUBBAS!!! He was a good teammate, but watching him run in slow-mo was just painful.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

June 26, 2022 at 10:47 am

Bruce, your article makes me feel about as optimistic about our tight ends as a man laying in a hole looking down.

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BruceIrons's picture

June 26, 2022 at 05:32 pm

I think we'll have more optimism after training camp.

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ImaPayne's picture

June 28, 2022 at 10:29 pm

now that ther is puny

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Duneslick's picture

June 26, 2022 at 11:49 am

Hey there is a problem Degura and Daffney are FB's and H/backs not TE's. 6/2 235/240. Mercades Lewis is a blocking TE. Robert Tonyan could do both but could be a 1 year flash in the pan 8 games last year 18 catches 29 targets 204 yds 11.3. 25 yds a game. Disappeared. Tyler Davis maybe able to do both but he maybe our best chance.

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TarynsEyes's picture

June 26, 2022 at 01:43 pm

I always find it hilarious when writers here at CHTV talk or expose the lack of a position, here it is the TE position, that when the FO signs one, drafts one, or retains one, the writers mostly write about how good/great the deal/player was before playing a snap for GB, and even over indulge in their propensity to deny what they haven't actually contributed while with the team. Now, we have an article finally recognizing the reality of what the TE position isn't, and many comments in some sort of agreement although denying their previous rants and rages, following the clique thinking of the one and only true fans, against those who believed and said such from the start., and who they are is well-known to the clique.

These types of articles leave me with this about the article and writers of them, although the pronoun needed to be changed to fit the thought.

You're trying to take a stance
And rise above your contradictions
But you're just a bunch of words in pants
And most of those are fiction

The Long Strange Golden Road,
The Waterboys.

I'm sure, when and whoever the next TE is brought into GB's fold, will instantly again be adorned with high praise before it is deserved and the ensuing coverup articles will again become the rule of team writings and will again have you denying your contradictions. If you don't, you might become a version of me and a couple of others, and that wouldn't sit well here at CHTV.

It would be best NOT to over-write a player to the good/greatness of that player until they have actually earned/merited such by their real contribution to achieving the GOAL. Then this article wouldn't have to be written which dismisses every other article written about the good/greatness of many a previous TE on this team. This includes the most recent about Lewis and his 18th year, who if not for GB keeping him these last 4 years, would likely be retired as no other team would sign him, less from his couch, and no other option available, and even then a stronger chance of not calling on him.

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jont's picture

June 26, 2022 at 06:05 pm

So you're suprised-- still, after all this time-- to visit a fan site and read optimism, hope, and anticipation?

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TarynsEyes's picture

June 26, 2022 at 07:12 pm

You missed or willingly ignore the point of the comment. Though I expect many will do so intentionally.

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dblbogey's picture

June 26, 2022 at 09:28 pm

Mostly we just skip it.

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jont's picture

June 27, 2022 at 12:06 pm

"I'm sure, when and whoever the next TE is brought into GB's fold, will instantly again be adorned with high praise before it is deserved and the ensuing coverup articles will again become the rule of team writings and will again have you denying your contradictions."

Lots of nuance in there, T.

But, with respect, you miss my point. No one objects to your negative takes on everything nor does anyone dispute your facts. What gets you your reputation is the personal nature of your comments. In this post alone: "clique thinking of the one and only true fans" and "these types of articles leave me with this (insult) about the article and writers of them."

About the writers of them.

Fans who love their team writing about their love of their team offends you. We get it. You don't have to repeat every damned time.

Your info and analysis can be interesting, but there is there is a big temptation to simply skip over your posts.

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Rarescope's picture

June 27, 2022 at 10:25 pm

Ah hem, I object to those with negative takes on everything Jon. I read them merely for entertainment value. I block out the posters’ name and then guess which negative Nancy wrote the comment. Alas it’s not a very challenging game after a couple years here.

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jont's picture

June 28, 2022 at 10:39 am

👍

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BAMABADGER's picture

June 26, 2022 at 01:38 pm

For what ever reason the Packers place draft value on the TE position similar to their past value placed on the ILB position. I think following this draft, they have finally recognized the need for quality ILB play.... hopefully the same recognition will occur at the TE position. IMHO none of the current TEs standout at their position.

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White92's picture

June 26, 2022 at 05:49 pm

What no mention of Martellus Bennett? He was awesome 🤪

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PatrickGB's picture

June 26, 2022 at 06:16 pm

A good cautionary note about bringing in aged vets.

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ricky's picture

June 26, 2022 at 09:47 pm

Rather than relying on the TE's to get the tough yards, how about using the RB's to get those yards? Both Jones and Dillon have shown good hands and generally good YAC when given the chance. There is no reason to be locked into one position being "the answer" on short yardage situations. Be creative, which is where LaFleur is supposed to shine.

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