Friday, May 31, 2013

Position Review: Tight End

When the reporters got a chance to watch practice this week, one of the players who stood out was TE Andrew Quarless, who missed all of 2012 because of a 2011 knee injury.
While the big news in March was that TE Jermichael Finley is staying, and he should be the starter in 2013, he only has one more year on his contract. The future might belong to Quarless, who will turn 25 next season.

Previous Position Reviews: Wide Receivers, Offensive Line-Guards and Tackles, Offensive Line-Center

Quarless has the advantage because he's a complete player. He and free agent signee TE Matthew Mulligan are acknowledged as the blocking tight ends. As a rookie, he didn't shine as Finley's replacement in 2010 (21 catches for 238 yards and 1 TD), but he was a very good receiver in college (41 receptions in 2009). If he earns a featured role this season, he might never come off the field.

Prior to his 2010 knee injury, Finley looked like he was on his way to becoming a dynamic receiving threat. While that hasn't happened, he still had 61 receptions in 2012. Mike McCarthy said it was Finley's best season and he still considers him a "matchup challenge for defenses." He also improved as last season progressed, so it's possible his breakout is still coming (he just turned 26 in March). With WR Greg Jennings's free agent departure, it might lead to more two tight end sets that use both Quarless and Finley as receiving options.

Mulligan was mentioned earlier as the other blocking tight end. He looks like the replacement for TE Tom Crabtree, who received a two-year contract from the Buccaneers. But he'll be challenged for a roster spot by TE Brandon Bostick, who appears to have played fullback/H-back in college, and probably by the other fullbacks because they're just as likely to be used as an extra blocker and special teams player. He's not a lock for the roster and there's no salary cap implications if they release him (one-year, $820,000).

Then there are the receiving tight ends; Ryan Taylor, D.J. Williams, and Jake Stoneburner. I'm down on both Taylor and Williams. Neither one of them has shown much development over their two seasons, and over half of the passes thrown to Williams in his career have been incomplete. Taylor's seen even less playing time (2 career receptions) but I take it as a bad sign that he can't seem to move ahead of Williams. They might both be in trouble if the Packers decide to keep an extra linebacker or fullback instead. I'm a little surprised Stoneburner signed with the Packers, who obviously have a crowd at the position, but he's more potential than performance after an uninspiring college career.

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