Every team faces questions entering the offseason, and the Packers are no exception. After a season-long struggle at safety, the front office drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and moved Micah Hyde from cornerback. Sensing a need to improve their pass rush, the team acquired Julius Peppers. Feeling that the offensive line required more size to open holes for Eddie Lacy and the running game, the Packers allowed Evan Dietrich-Smith to walk in free agency and tabbed JC Tretter his replacement. Yet one position group remains a question without a clear answer.
Once it became clear that Jermichael Finely was not in the Packers plans for 2014, the starting tight end position became one of the most intriguing battles of the team's offseason. Green Bay re-signed Andrew Quarless, drafted Richard Rodgers, and signed Colt Lyerla to bolster a group of talented but unproven players. As the second preseason game approaches, the Packers still don't have a clear frontrunner for the starting job. That said, two of the Packers' tight ends have positioned themselves above the fray.
Brandon Bostick and Richard Rodgers have improved steadily since training camp opened. Though neither provides the "complete package" at the position, both are making a compelling case for the starting job.
A third-year player out of Division II Newberry College, Bostick appears to have completed his transition from college wide receiver to NFL tight end. When he arrived for OTAs in June, Bostick came in at 270 lbs. He plans to shed some of that weight by the start of the regular season, but Bostick now has the size to go along with his ample speed and athleticism. He showcased both on a 24-yard catch and run during the Packers' preseason opener. If Bostick can avoid mistakes like the holding penalty that cost Green Bay a 19-yard run against Tennessee, he'll become no less than a regular contributor.
As well as Bostick looked against the Titans, his performance paled in comparison to Richard Rodgers. A third-round pick out of Cal, Rodgers is the yin to Bostick's yang, a traditional in-line tight end with a knack for blocking but unlikely to make an explosive play. On the Packers' opening drive 20-yard touchdown run, Rodgers came out of the backfield to make the critical second-level block that sprung James Starks into the end zone. With head coach Mike McCarthy overseeing a shift towards man blocking, a tight end like Rodgers becomes more valuable.
One of the difficulties in evaluating the preseason opener was the monsoon-esque conditions at LP Field. Receivers on both sides struggled to handle the football, and Green Bay's top tight ends were no exception. That won't be the case this weekend when the Packers travel to the Edward Jones Dome. With Aaron Rodgers expected to play at least a series against the Rams, Bostick and Rodgers will have their best opportunity yet to showcase their talents and make their case for the starting job.