Friday, February 14, 2014

Titletown Tight Ends ~ Kyle Engman

It’s been an interesting season to say the least for the Packers and their tight end position. Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless both have their contracts expire this offseason and with less than stellar performances from both it may be time for a change.  The tight end position is the only spot on the offense that really needs work, besides a few offensive line positions.  I wanted to review the Packers current tight ends and see where I stood with each one of them.  Even my views surprised me a bit.

Jermichael Finley
Finley has had some great moments with the Packers over his career but I’ve never been completely convinced that Finley was long term option after Donald Lee’s short tenure in Green Bay.  He showed a lot of promise early on but that has vanished completely.  Finley is plagued by inconsistency and poor ball handling skills. Throughout his career, Finley has dropped many key passes and has one of the highest percentages of dropped passes out of all NFL players.  Even if the passes were the main problem for Finley, his chances of being the starter for Green Bay after this year are slim.  Finley sustained a neck injury in October and it appeared to be career ending.  In mid-November, Finley underwent spinal fusion surgery to fuse his C4 and C3 vertebrae.  Despite being in line to make a full recovery, it’s highly doubtful Ted Thompson will resign Finley.  A few years ago Nick Collins sustained an injury similar to Finley’s and he was never cleared by Thompson to play.  The Packers released him the following offseason.  With Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and B.J. Raji all set to hit free agency this offseason, Finley’s priority of being resigned is little to none.  

Andrew Quarless
The Backup to Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, has played with the Packers the past four seasons.  Quarless’s role on the Packers offense is primarily blocking but was called into action this past year when Finley left with is spinal injury mid-season.  He caught 32 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns this season.  The prognosis on Quarless is that he is a great backup tight end but I think that’s all he’ll ever be.  Over the course of the season he never showed a breakout potential and seemed to lack a certain finesse that Finley has.  He was a viable and reliable replacement at the time but nothing more than that.  I’m not sure I could ever see Quarless being the full-time starter in Titletown but anything is possible in Green Bay.  The Packers have to resign him before he has a shot at starting as his rookie contract ends this offseason.

Brandon Bostick
A second year player and undrafted free agent, Bostick probably showed the most promise out of all the tight ends on the roster.  He only caught seven passes this season but some of them went for 19, 22, 24, and 26 yards; unveiling a glimpse at his big play ability.  Bostick unfortunately broke his foot in week 15, ending his interesting 2013 season.  I think Bostick is a long shot for the starting job in Green Bay but I wouldn't be surprised if we saw more of him next season.  

Ryan Taylor
We haven’t really seen much of Ryan Taylor in the Packers pass driven offense.  Like Quarless, Taylor is primarily a blocker and rarely ever gets involved in the passing game.  In three years with the Packers, Taylor has only recorded eight receptions for 45 yards and a lone touchdown.  

Jake Stoneburner
Jake Stoneburner is the fifth and last string tight end for the Packers and probably the coolest last name of any other Packer.  Besides that he’s rarely on the field other than for special teams plays.  I wouldn't be surprised if he’s cut during training camp.

Raymond Webber*
The Packers signed Webber while I was writing this article so I figured I would add a paragraph for the newest Tight End (hence the asterisk).  Webber is an undrafted free agent from Arkansas-Pine Bluff College (Where?) and is actually a converted wide receiver.  He’s bounced around from training squads in Tampa Bay, Seattle, and even played for the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL.  At the Central Arkansas pro day back in 2011, Webber ran a 4.5 second 40 yard dash.  I’ve always been a sucker for fast tight ends and the addition of Webber intrigues me.  The Packers are known for finding players out of nowhere, with somewhat amount of talent, so I’m not going to doubt they see something in Webber.  I get the feeling Webber will pull a “Ryan Grant” on the tight end position in Green Bay.  

I’m curious as to what players Green Bay may be interested though for free agency.  I’ve seen countless articles about Jimmy Graham, the Packers, and free agency.  I can already tell you this is not going to happen.  Ted Thompson has too many holes to fill on defense this year that he’s just not going to have the money for Graham.  Don’t get me wrong though, I daydream about Aaron Rodgers throwing countless touchdowns to Jimmy Graham (in the Super Bowl of course).  But guys like Dennis Pitta or Scott Chandler can offer the same amount of production for about half the cost.  

As for the draft, I’m a little more optimistic about Green Bay drafting a good tight end.  Two caught my eye while watching game footage.  Eric Ebron out of UNC and CJ Fiedorowicz (am I spelling that correctly?) out of Iowa.  Ebron is the top prospect in the draft at the tight end position but isn’t predicted to go until later in the first round.  Fiedorowicz isn’t predicted to be taken until the third or fourth round.  Athletically, Ebron is the top choice.  He has speed that can disengage him from a cornerback.  Fiedorowicz isn’t fast but he uses power to his advantage.  He is fast enough to outrun linebackers in the straightaway.  He has a 6’ 7” 265lb frame and looks like a freight train running down the middle of the field (Jimmy Graham 2.0?).  I like Fiedorowicz for a lot of reasons.  First, he’s not going to cost the Packers their first round pick, which they need dearly to fix problems with their defense.  Second, in a Packers offense that looks to utilize the run more, Fiedorowicz is the best option.  Big frame and already good blocking skills, Fiedorowicz could come into Green Bay and start from day one.  

Predictions for next year? I’d like to see Fiedorowicz come in and be a Jason Witten type player for the Packers.  I’d also like to see improvement from Brandon Bostick.  But the one that is intriguing me the most is Raymond Webber.  I’d like to see Webber start opposite of Fiedorowicz and create a passing attack much like New England’s when they had Hernandez and Gronkowski.

If you want to follow my crazy life and NFL updates, I have this thing called twitter.  I think your suppose to tweet me at @engman22.  Follow me, we can talk football.  Thanks for the read!

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