The Green Bay Packers have found a new identity on offense thanks to their evolving run game, and tight end/fullback Josiah Deguara has played a key role in opening up the team’s rushing attack.
It was a dominant performance from the Packers on Sunday, coming away with a 41-17 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay ran for 163 yards and two touchdowns as a team, averaging an impressive 4.9 yards per carry.
Deguara played a key role in that rushing attack. His 23 snaps were the most he’s played in a game since Week 9, along with a season-high 17 run-blocking snaps. After watching the film from the Week 17 win, it’s clear that Matt LaFleur and Adam Stenavich feel very comfortable rolling out more creative run concepts with the third-year tight end on the field.
For most of the season, Deguara has succeeded as a traditional split-zone blocker or lead blocker on toss plays. When coming across the formation, Deguara doesn’t always stick to defenders to wash them out, but his blocks do just enough to clear out space and kick out the unblocked defender to give his running backs a cutback lane.
I really enjoy the different ways the Packers utilize Josiah Deguara as a blocker.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) January 3, 2023
Pre-snap motion to the weak side of the formation, then shoots back across to kick out the OLB for a cutback lane.
Nice six-yard gain. pic.twitter.com/UwgoRQ9uvk
As a lead blocker in open space, Deguara has shown improvement when it comes to feeling out what’s developing in front of him to block the correct defender. With a running back like Jones who has impressive vision behind him, it’s important for Deguara to also see rushing lanes developing in front of him so he can find the right player to seal off.
This can be a tough block as a lead blocker in open space.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) January 3, 2023
Deguara does a nice job of processing what's in front of him and finding who he needs to seal off. pic.twitter.com/Ff9MGMPs63
This is something that Deguara struggled with more early on in his career. However, as we saw against the Vikings, the third-year player is much more comfortable processing and diagnosing the play as it develops.
At 6’2” and 238 pounds, Deguara isn’t the biggest player at his position. However, his excellent movement skills and aggressiveness in the trenches has allowed the Packers to get more creative with their run concepts.
For as predictable as the Packers have been all season out of their two-back “pony” package, the offensive staff revealed a new wrinkle on Sunday. After faking the inside zone handoff to AJ Dillon, Aaron Jones received the ball on a quick toss. With Deguara as a lead blocker and the crashing end unblocked, the Packers were able to create numbers on the perimeter for a solid gain.
New play out of Pony!— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) January 3, 2023
Fake handoff, leave the end unblocked, use Deguara as a lead blocker to go after the first second-level defender he sees.
Hopefully we see this again soon. pic.twitter.com/0fNwsXmXb1
The Packers also schemed up a great way to take advantage of former Green Bay pass rusher Za’Darius Smith’s aggressiveness. Drawing up a play design that looked as if Deguara would push Rodgers on a QB sneak, the Packers instead ran a sweep to the left with Deguara as a lead blocker.
Watch how this play confuses Smith, who kicks inside assuming it’s an inside run. That pre-snap shift gives the Packers numbers on the outside, and a great block from Deguara helps spring Jones for an explosive play.
Don't think I've ever seen this look from LaFleur before.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) January 3, 2023
Vikings get confused, Z kicking inside gives the Packers numbers on the perimeter.
Outstanding block from Deguara to spring Jones loose. pic.twitter.com/ExX4El2VXM
The Packers could be losing Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, and Tyler Davis at the tight end position this offseason. Even if the Packers bring back one or two of those players, or take someone in the 2023 NFL draft, the impact that Deguara has had on the team’s running game has likely secured him a larger role for the 2023 season.
Editor’s note: We at Acme Packing Company send our best wishes to Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin and his family after the cardiac event he suffered during Monday night’s game in Cincinnati. Although we will continue to post about the Green Bay Packers in the coming days, we agree that Hamlin’s health should be the NFL’s highest priority at this time and that the remainder of the season should be secondary.