The two-edged sword of potential is at work in the Packers’ tight end group.
Last year, the Packers entered camp with three high-potential players at the spot, and one of them delivered big. Robert Tonyan, a converted small-school wide receiver, made the most of every opportunity, snagging nearly every ball that came his way en route to one of the most efficient seasons at his position in the NFL.
Josiah Deguara, nominally a tight end counterpart to Tonyan, looked like a promising, versatile piece in Matt LaFleur’s offense. But a Week 1 injury put him on the shelf for almost a month, then he tore his ACL in his first game back. Now, he’s still a mystery of potential, a high-level athlete at a unique position.
Jace Sternberger, meanwhile, is running on the fumes of his third-round potential. He’s been a disappointment through two seasons and a two-game suspension looms this year. So far, he’s skated by on the promise of what he could be, but the Packers seem to be facing the reality of what he is — and it doesn’t appear to be all that good.
Potential, both reached and unrealized, is very real, but it’s interesting to note how the perception of a player’s potential can shape our perception of him. Would it feel like Tonyan was reaching for new heights if he’d started his career as a first-round pick? If Sternberger was taken in the seventh round, would anyone care that he hasn’t played up to his potential? Their potential as players might be the same, but our reaction to them might not be. It’s worth keeping that in mind as cutdown days arrive — and certain potential-laden players head into what could be defining seasons.
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