The Mike McCarthy offense doesn't regularly use a tight end in a traditional sense, but with the recent move to a more balanced attacked behind rookie sensation Eddie Lacy, the team changed the way it used the position. With more run plays being called, the tight end was asked to block at the point of attack, usually against a defensive end or outside linebacker. Of course, the McCarthy offense also calls for a tight end that could be a playmaker in the passing game and a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Jermichael Finley was poised to make noise in the final year of his lucrative contract, and the team brought in Matthew Mulligan from the St. Louis Rams to help add some run blocking to the unit.
The organization was still waiting for D.J. Williams to prove himself as a long-term option, while Andrew Quarless was finally healthy after suffering a horrific knee injury against the Giants in 2011. Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick, and rookie Jake Stoneburner were also in the fold to make the 53-man roster.
To whom much is given, much is expected. Jermichael Finley was being paid like an elite-level tight end, so naturally the organization and fanbase were expecting elite-level production from the talented player. After Finley, there was obviously a drop-off in expectations. Matthew Mulligan was expected to be a run blocking specialist, while D.J. Williams and Andrew Quarless were likely the No. 3 and 4 options on the roster.
Taylor, Bostick, and Stoneburner were on the outside looking in as far as making the 53-man roster, but each brought a lot of potential to the group.
2013 Packers Tight Ends:
Starters: Andrew Quarless
Back-Ups: Ryan Taylor, Brandon Bostick, Jake Stoneburner
Injured Reserve: Jermichael Finley
Released: Matthew Mulligan, D.J. Williams
Mulligan and Williams were released in favor of Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor, and Brandon Bostick, while Jake Stoneburner was placed on the practice squad.
Jermichael Finley jumped out to a fast start to the regular season by catching a touchdown pass in each of the first two games before leaving early with a concussion in Week 3 against the Bengals. After the Packers' bye week, Finley came back with back-to-back strong performances against the Ravens and Browns. Unfortunately, Finley suffered a spinal cord injury near the end of the Browns game and underwent cervical fusion surgery shortly afterwards. His career appears to be in jeopardy. It's a shame to see such an injury happen to any player, but it felt even worse knowing that Finley appeared to be turning the corner in his career.
Enter Andrew Quarless.
Quarless was asked to carry the load in Finley's absence, with his only help coming from the inexperienced group of Taylor, Bostick, and Stoneburner. Quarless wasn't much of a playmaking threat in the passing game, and struggled in run blocking from time to time as well. Aaron Rodgers missing two months of the season didn't do Quarless any favors either, but he was serviceable in relief of Finley.
Final Grade: C-
Jermichael Finley was on pace to have a great season, both as a pass-catching playmaker and as a blocker. He put on extra muscle mass over the off-season, and that seemed to help he be more explosive off the ball on his routes, and have more pop when attacking as a blocker at the point of attack. A healthy Finley probably brings this grade up a full letter grade if not more, but the lack of production from the back-ups makes this one of the more disappointing positions on the team. Finley finished with 25 receptions for 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Andrew Quarless wasn't terrible, but he isn't going to be a difference maker as the No.1 option. His contract is up, and it will be interesting to see what the organization decides to do moving forward. Quarless ended 2013 with 32 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns.
Brandon Bostick had flashes of potential during the 2013 season, and looks like a potential option as a pass-catching tight end. Bostick recorded 7 receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown in 2013. Bostick's area of weakness is blocking, something he showed improvements on while working on special teams for most of the season. Ryan Taylor was the No. 2 option from Week 12 on, and was a decent blocker in run support, but wasn't much of a pass catching threat. If he puts on a little more size, and works on his route running, he could be a viable back-up plan. Taylor caught six passes for 30 yards in 2013.
Jake Stoneburner spent most of the season on the practice squad, and only played a total of 10 snaps when he did get activated to the 53-man roster. He accounted for three costly special teams penalties, and generally looked out of place when in the game. He's somewhat athletic as a receiver, but has good size that could be developed into a run blocking specialist. He just makes way too many mistakes right now to be considered a long-term option.