Examining the 2011 Green Bay Packers: Tight Ends, Fullbacks

GREEN BAY WI - AUGUST 26: Jermichael Finley #88 of the Green Bay Packers signals along with a referee a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 26 2010 in Green Bay Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

After winning the Super Bowl nearly two weeks ago, analysis ahead of the 2011 season has begun to plague the Packers early this offseason.  Fellow writer, Mitchell, examined the wide receivers several days ago, so it is now time to take a look at the tight end position, along with the Packer fullbacks.

Here's a short analysis on each player ahead of September, along with a short roundup on what to expect.

Tight Ends (4): Andrew Quarless, Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree, Donald Lee.

#81 Andrew Quarless

Player Progression (progress/stagnate/regress from 2010): Progress

Team Standing (expanded/same/diminshed role): Diminished Role

Likelihood of Long Term Retention (High, Average, Low): Average

With starting tight end Jermichael Finley nursing a knee injury in 2010,  replacement Andrew Quarless pitched in nicely when it came to offering Aaron Rodgers a second option on offense.  But unfortunately, the unsecure future of Quarless hangs in the balance as time moves on.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that Finley will return healthy and ready for action in 2011.  But whether or not head coach Mike McCarthy chooses to implement a two-headed tight end attack is a major guess, especially with the offseason now in full swing.

Quarless caught for 238 yards and one touchdown this past season, well rounded statistics for a rookie player thrown into the deep end at a moments notice.  Still, with competition surrounding him, he will have to become much more of a threat in big games, an area that saw Quarless struggle last year.

The chances of significant playing time will be reduced with Finley occupying the top spot, but in all reality, there is no reason the two can't coexist in the future.  It's nice to know that the Packers have some depth to rely upon should one player fall similar to last year, and Quarless' youth certainly provides just that.

 

#88 Jermichael Finley

Player Progression: Progress

Team Standing: Expanded Role

Likelihood of Long Term Retention: High

As already mentioned, Finley missed much of last season due to a knee injury, which ruled him out following the Packers Week 5 clash against the Washington Redskins.  But what people choose to overlook in this situation, is the fact that Finley posted two plus 100 yard games prior to going down.

Against both Buffalo and Chicago, Finley was electric.  Rodgers made the most of the teams promising receiver threat early in the year, making Finley's injury that much more sour with such a positive season on the line.

So what can we expect in 2011?

If Finley can surpass Quarless' total 2010 statistics in just four games, the Packers have a serious player on their hands (not that we didn't already know that).  More importantly, Finley will also be a huge asset on pesky third down situations, an area that haunted Green Bay during the NFC Championship Game against Chicago.

Rodgers stated his fondness for Finley on Twitter, saying that he can't wait to throw to him next season.  It's a duo that has been waiting to burst onto the scene, but has been delayed by injury.  The Packers now have an opportunity to make up for lost time.

Expect a Pro Bowl style year from Finley should the CBA come to an arrangement sometime soon.  The Packers receiving game is due to slow down a little with Donald Driver showing signs of age, making Finley that much more valuable when defending the Super Bowl title.

 

#83 Tom Crabtree

Player Progression: Stagnate

Team Standing: Diminished Role

Likelihood of Long Term Retention: Average

For a first year player out of Miami (Ohio), Tom Crabtree brought some explosiveness to the table last season, after acquiring 61 yards behind Quarless in the backup role.  However, now that Finley returns, 2011 is looking to be a down year.

In all likelihood the Packers will keep Crabtree on the roster.  Other teams are yet to express any interest in signing Green Bay's third string tight end, but that may be due to the fact that he is yet to express his full skill-set so far in his career.

During the postseason, Crabtree caught only two passes for eight yards.  One of those receptions came in the Super Bowl, while the other occurred in the Wild Card Game against Philadelphia which resulted in a touchdown.

Crabtree may make some progress in terms of maturity and discipline, but his playing time will be cut in half now that Finley is returning, and Quarless has developed into a noteworthy tight end.

 

#86 Donald Lee

Player Progression: Regress

Team Standing: Diminished Role

Likelihood of Long Term Retention: Low

Every Packer fan loves Donald Lee.  He's the kind of player who can provide a spark off the bench, and is always capable of performing an explosive play to gift Green Bay a touchdown or some yardage at the drop of a hat.

But with age comes a dwindling role, as some Packer fans feel Lee has played his last game in green and gold.  With a $2.2 million salary set for 2011, general manager Ted Thompson may be wise to part ways with one of the teams most trustworthy players, considering the immense depth at the tight end position.

Last season Lee's numbers plummeted, mainly due to the emergence of Quarless.  In 2007 Lee was one of the Packers go-to guys, where he accumulated 575 yards and six touchdowns - those same figures were reduced to just 73 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.

To compare Lee to another Packer great, he is quickly going the way of Ahman Green.  The better days are behind him, while a future may still remain with a willing bidder somewhere else in the league.

Expect trade talks to pop up this offseason, but that isn't to say the Packers should allow Lee to walk easily.  Some talent still remains in the tank, and even though Green Bay have moved on behind Finley, Lee is a valuable asset to have coming off the bench.

 

Fullbacks (3): John Kuhn, Korey Hall, Quinn Johnson

#30 John Kuhn

Player Progression:Progress

Team Standing: Expanded Role

Likelihood of Long Term Retention: High

John Kuhn's 2010 season skyrocketed after the injury to starting running back Ryan Grant in Week 1, adding a power boost to the Packers offense that was desperately needed. Throughout the season, Green Bay mixed and matched Kuhn between the running back and the fullback spot, although NFL.com suggests that he is indeed one of the teams few fullbacks.

Next season expect severe progress from No.30.  Last year McCarthy chose to include Kuhn in goal line situations, and also throw him into the mix on third down, resulting in four total touchdowns in 16 games.

Kuhn doesn't lack experience so to speak, as next season will be his sixth professionally.  But on the other hand, he does lack the ability to be consistent, even though much of this could be blamed on McCarthy's "hot and cold" nature depending on the opponent.

Against the New York Giants in Week 16, Kuhn was great when scoring two touchdowns on the ground game.  But in the playoffs he accounted for just 8 yards and a score, leaving some work going into the offseason break.

 

#35 Korey Hall

Player Progression: Degress

Team Standing: Diminished Role

Likelihood of Long Term Retention: Low

There isn't much to say about Korey Hall right now.  Last season proved to be a downer for the Packers fourth year fullback, not that this is a surprise considering Kuhn emerged nicely as the season went on.

Statistically speaking Hall had zero yards to his name when running the ball.  A nine yard reception is all that stands on his season stat sheet, leaving the future extremely uncertain for a player who placed 41 yards on the board the previous year.

Kuhn looks to be McCarthy's man for now, so Hall will likely take a backseat in 2011, not that any of this comes as a huge surprise.

 

#45 Quinn Johnson

Player Progression: Stagnate

Team Standing: Same Role

Likelihood of Long Term Retention: Average

Fresh from LSU two years ago, Quinn Johnson's second season with the Packers was far from bright in 2010, as he managed to play for only 26 receiving yards last season.

Still, Johnson's future remains potentially bright as does Green Bay's run game.  With a much more solidified offensive line last year, Johnson adds an extra blocking presence in the backfield, something that will help with the return of Grant next season.

During Johnson's years in LSU he became famous for his speed, as defenders are immediately hit with a 250 pound wrecking ball.  Johnson is young and has tremendous talent to offer, so don't be surprised if he is handed the ball more often in the coming years.

 

What Can We Expect in 2011?                                                                                            

It looks to be a promising year for the tight end position in Green Bay.  Last season looked to be Finley's shining moment, but no Packer fan can complain with the efforts of Quarless in the long run.  Rodgers loves the tight end option, especially when rolling out of the pocket, so it will be interesting to see which player McCarthy chooses to include when the issue of moving the chains pops up. 

Fullbacks?  Neither of the three players will have a huge impact offensively, but Kuhn is by far one of many breakout players to keep an eye on.  The power game often runs dry at times behind Grant, so to have a second option on goal line situations is always beneficial.

Lastly, lets not forget the free agent status of Kuhn and Hall.  The need for three fullbacks isn't exactly pressing, therefore, releasing/trading Hall may be the smarter option down the track, while locking up Kuhn should be one of the Packers top priorities.

It's another promising offensive season ahead, and one that should bring even more underrated players to the spotlight.

 

Follow Ryan Cook on   Twitter.

Ryan Cook is an Australian writer for Acme Packing Company. He is also a guest writer for PackerChatters. Send him an email: ryan.cook392@gmail.com.

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