Now more than ever, offense in the NFL is about creating mismatches. Whether schematically or with personnel – teams are looking for anything to get that edge. And the tight end position offers one of the easiest ways to do this. But it’s been a position the Packers have struggled to find consistency at throughout Aaron Rodgers’ tenure. And with Matt LaFleur in charge, it’s become even more important to solve that problem to really unlock the Packer’s offense.
Since Jermichael Finley retired, it’s been a revolving door in Green Bay at tight end. The Jimmy Graham experiment doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation. But even looking at the signing of Jared Cook prior to the 2016 season can show the boost a real threat can bring. Rodger’s “run the table” stretch happened to coincide with Cook’s return from injury that season. In the 10 games after Cook came back – he put up 42 catches for 553 yards and 3 TD. That includes 18 catches for 229 yards and 2 TD just in the postseason.
The Packers have a decision to make whether to bring Robert Tonyan back for the 2023 season. While Tonyan has been a solid option throughout his time in Green Bay, he just doesn’t give them a very dynamic option. His 8.9 yards/catch was 40th/48 tight ends with at least 25 targets. He also only forced 3 missed tackles on his 53 receptions. And while he has improved as a blocker, it was never his strength. And with Marcedes Lewis also a free agent, the Packers could well be without their top receiving AND blocking tight ends in 2023.
The goal for the Packers this offseason should be to try and replace both Tonyan and Lewis with a single player. They should look to find a true “Y” tight end that has the capability to block inline, and pose a threat down the seams. Matt LaFleur often talks about the “illusion of complexity” in his offense. This means being able to run a play from multiple formations, personnel groups, etc. But their offense lately has been far too predictable. With Tonyan primarily playing passing downs, and Lewis on running downs, Green Bay is making it too easy for defenses based on their personnel.
Tight end has been a popular pick in mock drafts across the internet for the Packers. And while it would be a little of of character for Brian Gutekunst to spend a first round pick on one – he might not need to. In his initial Top 50 Draft Prospects, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has 5 TE listed. The Packers should make sure that they land a blue chip prospect to help open up their offense in 2023.——————
Jared is a rogue Packers fan from a Steelers family and an overall football junkie, including playing 4 years at Ithaca College. You can follow him on twitter at @JPrugar.
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