Just before Thanksgiving, Green Bay Packers rookie tight end, Luke Musgrave sustained a lacerated kidney that’s sidelined him for the last six games. Just before Christmas, Musgrave returned to the practice field in an effort to play once more this season. Now, with one game remaining in the regular season, with a chance to stamp a ticket to the playoffs, Musgrave has a chance at returning to the playing field. How could his return impact the offense?
On Thursday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur said he believes that it’s “realistic” for Musgrave to play Sunday. According to Musgrave though, he definitely wants to play but he wants to take it day by day and see as he is still experiencing some pain. After Musgrave practiced in limited fashion both Wednesday and Thursday, the Packers will have until Saturday to decide whether or not to activate him from IR.
Before the injury, Musgrave had 33 catches for 341 yards and a touchdown. He was on pace to shatter the Packers’ single season reception record for rookie tight ends set by Bubba Franks in 2000, with 34 catches. It would be a shame for Musgrave to fall just one catch short of at least tying the record, but his long-term health of course is more important than the history books.
In Musgrave’s absence, fellow rookie tight end, Tucker Kraft has ascended as well and has made his case for breaking the Packers’ recent third round pick curse.
Since taking over for Musgrave, Tucker Kraft has come into his own as well as a receiving threat. With 23 catches for 324 yards and two touchdowns, Kraft has basically made up for Musgrave’s time out. Needing six catches himself to tie Franks’ rookie franchise record, that goal isn’t far-fetched for either player.
Kraft has shown himself to be a dynamic pass-catcher as well as a good blocker in both the passing game and the running game. His blocking skills were showcased just this past Sunday when he man-handled Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter on an Aaron Jones run.
If Musgrave is ready to go on Sunday, it’s not crazy to believe both him and Kraft together could make a big difference for the Packers’ offense. When asked about sharing the field with Musgrave, Kraft said he envisioned explosive plays, confused defenses, and him and Musgrave just punishing people in the fashion they like to do it.
Personally, I’ve been dying for the Packers to find a playmaking tight end ever since Jermichael Finley had to hang up his cleats. I think now, 10 years later, we have two.
If both Musgrave and Kraft are on the field Sunday, they’ll be facing a Bears defense that’s given up an average of almost 50 yards receiving to tight ends per game. Stack on the possibility of Christian Watson and a full complement of receivers available to Jordan Love Sunday, and the passing game could feast.
Though Musgrave could be on a snap count, he does have the ability to stretch the field on his own. Averaging 10.3 yards per catch, with a long of 37 yards, the Bears could be having to guard Watson and Doubs deep on the outside, with a combination of Jayden Reed, Luke Musgrave, or Tucker Kraft in the middle. Add on Dontayvion Wicks or Bo Melton who have become significant weapons on their own recently, and this could become an explosive offense.
Regardless of who takes the field Sunday, the Packers seem to be in very good shape for the coming future on the offensive side of the ball. Go Pack Go.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.