Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s favorite saying this time of year is that he’s looking for second- and third-year players to take the next big step in their development. While everyone’s eyes on were on the rookies, new acquisitions, and players coming off injuries, it was tight end Justin Perillo who noticeably stepped up against the Cleveland Browns on Friday.
Perillo, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Maine in 2014, only saw action in two games that year. In 2015, he again largely labored in obscurity, playing in just nine games — though he did catch 11 passes for just over 100 yards and one touchdown.
In the competition for the three (or possibly four) tight end roster spots, Richard Rodgers and Jared Cook are locks. Perillo and Kennard Backman are next in line, and Mitchell Henry and Casey Pierce are considered long shots.
Backman had a decent showing on Friday as well, snagging three passes for 28 yards. However, it was the unassuming and less athletic Perillo who led the team in both catches (5) and receiving yards (52).
Perillo, at 6’3” and 250 pounds, has consistently shown the ability to get open and to be sure-handed. Further, many view him as the top blocker among the Packers’ six tight end prospects.
There are only about a half dozen roster spots that are truly up for grabs this preseason, and the third tight end slot is obviously one of them.
Last Friday, no one did more to secure one of these openings than Justin Perillo.