Now that Andrew Quarless has been activated the Packers once again have five tight ends. What may be more interesting about this fact right now is this unit may be the least consistent group on the team. Two of the tight ends this year have been disappointments, Ryan Taylor and Jermichael Finley. Two of the tight ends have been pleasant surprises, Tom Crabtree and D.J. Williams. Finally adding Quarless back into the mix and the questions surrounding his health and expectations make this a difficult position group to grade.
First and foremost let’s talk about Finley. To say he is a disappointment this season is an understatement. We have all heard the big talk from Finley, and to a lesser extent Rodgers and McCarthy talking about Finley. Early in his career he flashed some serious talent, especially back in 2009. The problem is that since his knee injury in 2010 Finley has fizzled. He’s also suffered from a major case of the drops this year. This leave Packer fans with two choices…we can accept the fact that Finley just is not going to be as good as we hoped and have diminished expectations, or we can continue to bang our heads against the wall and hope that this is merely a slump he’ll wake up from. The wiser choice will probably be the later since Rodgers himself seems to be targeting Finley less over the recent weeks and looking for James Jones and Randall Cobb more.
If there has been a pleasant surprise on the offensive side of the ball so far this year it may be Tom Crabtree. Crabtree has been a part of two of the longer plays of the year for the Packers (the fake field goal against Chicago and the 72 yard pass against the Cardinals) and has shown to be an asset in the passing game as well as blocking so far this year. It’s probably unreasonable to expect Crabtree to grow into more than he is right now, but is that a problem? Crabtree right now is a reliable target for short yardage and a capable blocker.
A similar player for the Packers at the moment is D.J. Williams. Williams has grown as a blocker in 2012 and has also shown to be a capable target in the passing game. Williams may not be quite as dynamic as some would have hoped for his rookie year, but he has found a role in the offense and his snap count has increased in the recent weeks with the injury to John Kuhn.
Ryan Taylor is a player who has seen a slight reduction to his role. After struggling in the preseason he has mostly been relegated to blocking situation and special teams. This has to be a disappointment for those who hoped that he would eventually make Crabtree replaceable.
The wildcard in this mix is going to be Quarless. Before he was injured, Quarless was the most well rounded of the tight ends. He could block substantially better than Finley but was also a more capable receiving target and physical mismatch than Crabtree. Now that he is back will be able to work his way back into the offense and give the Packers a reliable middle of the field threat? Or will it take most of this season to finish the healing of his knee and thus more expectations be placed to next year?
Overall Midseason Grade For The Position Group: C+
It should be a B-, but the fall of Finley overshadows the position group as a whole. If Finley can step up, or Quarless comes back strong, this may be a position group with the depth and talent to rival the receiving corp…but as it is there are more questions than answers here.