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Green Bay Packers Training Camp: Tight End Battle Heating Up

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"Ol' Tats" got the first work with the starting offense today.
"Ol' Tats" got the first work with the starting offense today.

After two days of training camp, one of the more interesting position battles forming is at Tight End. With Jermichael Finley sitting out of practice today (and probably the next few days as well), a number of players were given chances to step up and get extra repetitions in practice.

The first fascinating tidbit is that Tom Crabtree got the first reps with the number one offense today, ahead of Ryan Taylor and D.J. Williams. Crabtree probably is the least skilled of the three as a receiver, which makes that choice a little bit of a head-scratcher considering how much the Packers use the position as a pass target. He apparently had a mixed day catching the ball though, especially in the two-minute drill.

On the other hand, D.J. Williams was impressive in the passing game, making several great catches, a few of which were highlight reel-worthy. Now word is coming out that he wrestled cows during the off-season to help get himself bigger and stronger. The problem with Williams though is that he looked very good early in camp last season before the pads came on. Hopefully his improved strength shows when blocking drills and real contact begin tomorrow.

Ryan Taylor, who we have begun thinking may be the most balanced of the players at the position, had a very difficult day in practice. He committed a false start early, then dropped a wide-open pass that hit him squarely in the hands. Crabtree and Williams then made the error look even worse by making nice catches immediately after the drop.

We'll take a quick look at what this means for the position long-term after the jump.

Obviously there are several weeks left in camp and none of these players will have their roster status in jeopardy with a bad performance today, but Taylor did not impress anyone today. He could really use a superb performance in pads tomorrow to help get himself back in the coaching staff's good graces. If Williams' new-found strength is a reality and translates to the field, Taylor may have an even tougher battle to make the roster. Williams could be a very versatile player for a creative coach like Mike McCarthy, and I desperately want him to prove that he won't get Aaron Rodgers killed in pass protection. If he can't, he's just a flashy toy that doesn't serve a useful purpose.

Crabtree wasn't overly impressive today, but what should we make of him getting the initial first-team reps? My guess is that he got the "start" because he's the most experienced tight end on the roster, and that there's nothing more than that. Perhaps it's an attempt to kick-start the younger players into performing better, and perhaps it's really a sign that the team thinks he's the second-best tight end on the team, but I doubt it. In a position with such a logjam for the #2 position, somebody needs to get the first shot, and in this case, Crabtree's experience earned it.

We'll continue to revisit this position as camp rolls onward. With the rest of the offense being more or less solidified, it gives us something to debate and discuss when we're not focused on the fascinating issues facing the defense.

I leave you with this great quote from Williams about the multiple purposes of wrestling cows (from JSOnline):

I guess it's three things: for a good time, for football, obviously, and it's a good way to impress a girl. It's very impressive. Usually, you say, 'Let's go cow tipping' and they feel it's a good rush when the cows start chasing you and stuff. They think it's to impress them, but I'm really working on my football stuff at the same time. Two birds, one stone.

D.J. Williams: the most interesting man in the locker room.