It is a well known fact, Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense will place a very high value on tight ends. Not only will the tight ends play a key role in the importance being placed on the run game, but the role they will have in disguising the play will be critical. LaFleur wants his tight ends to be able to block, but be useful in creating match-up problems in the middle of the field. One can see this will open up the running lanes. Under LaFleur I believe we’ll see multiple tight ends formations often.
The Packers will be entering training camp with 6 Tight Ends competing for potentially 4 spots on the 53 man roster. Those Tight Ends being, Evan Baylis, Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Pharoah McKever, Jace Sternberger, and Robert Tonyan. The returning Packer TE who had the highest grade at the conclusion of last season was Robert Tonyan. Jimmy Grahan seemed have difficulty remaining healthy and Marcedes Lewis was seldom used by the previous staff. Look for all of the change, especially with GM Gutekunst spending a draft pick on Jace Sternberger.
Jimmy Graham had a difficult season in 2018, trying to learn a new offense (which sputtered at best) and fighting injuries most of the year. Aaron Rodgers feels LaFleur’s offense is very well suited for Graham. It’s has some similarity to previous offenses he’s used to where the tight end drags the linebackers down field which will either result in a big gain or open the defense up for a dump pass to a running back. I think Graham will have a decent year, barring injury.
Marcedes Lewis was totally misplaced in Mike McCarthy’s offense last season. It seems McCarthy forgot how to use multiple tight end sets which is a feature of the West Coast offense. Other than a couple receptions here or there and a few blocks, Lewis was basically a roster spot. He’ll be fighting with Tonyan for playing time.
Robert Tonyan only had 4 receptions in 2018, but one was a 54 yd TD pass on a QB scramble. It was a highlight reel catch. Even with just 4 catches Tonyan still graded out as the number Packer tight end in 2018. Watch for much more of that this season as Tonyan spent the off season working out with Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle (49ers 2018, 88 REC, 1377 YDS, 5 TDs). That experience will definitely provide Tonyan with some new knowledge to take to the field in 2019.
Jace Sternberger so impressed the Packers that they made him their 3rd round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He had quite a year in 2018 at Texas A&M (48 REC, 832 YDS, 10 TDs), no wonder the Packers were impressed. 2018 was Sternberger’s one and only season in the highly competitive SEC. Let’s hope he sees the field in 2019, he has a great mentor in Jimmy Graham.
I believe these 4 will round out the tight end group in the 53 man roster. If someone does get cut, look for it to be Lewis. He didn’t get a chance to show anything in 2018, but he may be the odd man out in 2019. Under LaFleur the tight ends should flourish. We should see similar numbers as we saw with Jermichael Finley, and 1996 with Keith Jackson/Mark Chmura (68 REC, 875 YDS, 10 TDs). In 1996 the Packers had the highest scoring offense and the lowest scoring defense. Now wouldn’t that be a sight to see in 2019!
As Always, Go Pack Go
PackerGregPackerGreg Veteran/Go Army @DrGTP on Twitter