Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook practiced for the first time on Thursday since spraining his ankle in week 3. Will his return bolster the Packers’ passing attack?
The short answer is probably not.
Cook was supposed to supply Mike McCarthy with the big, fast tight end he’s wanted since Jermichael Finley left town. And while Cook has given McCarthy that (when healthy), Aaron Rodgers doesn’t throw him the ball anyway.
In fact, this season he isn’t throwing the ball to any tight end.
The Packers are second to last in the NFL in tight end production so far this year.
The guy who’s been out there for every game, Richard Rodgers, has just nine receptions for 84 yards. He didn’t catch a pass against Atlanta — no tight end did — and hasn’t had more than two catches in a game this year.
Cook has just six catches for 53 yards in the three games he played, although he did have a four-catch effort in week 2 against the Vikings. Unfortunately, he only gained 31 yards on those four catches.
Justin Perillo has added just two catches for 17 yards.
That’s a total of 17 receptions for 154 yards. That’s not even decent production for one No. 1 tight end.
It’s also a patter — a pattern other than Rodgers not throwing to tight ends.
All three of these guys are averaging under 10 yards per reception, even the big, fast one that was supposed to stretch the middle of the field.
Why is that?
It’s because you’d have to line up a firing squad in front of Rodgers for him to throw a ball down the middle of the field. Watch where he throws the ball during the course of any game — it’s almost exclusively outside the numbers.
Outside passes are less risky. No roaming safety to potentially drift over and pick one off like in the middle of the field. Thus, very few throws to tight ends.
When Rodgers does throw to the middle, it’s usually a check down or dump off — plays that don’t gain many yards. Thus, the low tight end yards per catch average (also not helped by Richard Rodgers being slow as molasses in January).
It really appears that the Packers could have as many tight ends as they want, those tight ends could bring all kinds of tools to the table and they’d still rarely see the ball. And when they do see the ball, they likely won’t be in a very good position to gain many yards with it.