Post-Draft, Looking on the Bright Side – Part 2
Here’s what Packers’ writer Wes Hodkiewicz says about Coach Matt LaFleur’s high regard for tight ends:
“LaFleur appreciates the dimension tight ends bring to the offense. . .A steady diet of big-play receivers, versatile running backs and multiple-tight-end pairings makes up LaFleur’s core philosophy. He wants to throw a barrage of attacks at a defense regardless of whether it’s “22” personnel, with two running backs and two tight ends, or “12” personnel of one running back and two tight ends.”
Wes then quoted LaFleur as follows:
“‘I love multiple personnel groupings. The more the defense has to prepare for, I think the harder it is for them to focus on exactly what it is we’re trying to get done.”
These quotes, however, were made in April, 2019, but for the second straight year tight end Jimmy Graham failed to live up to his billing. Graham is now gone, but the Packers keep trying: in each of the last two drafts, GM Gutekunst has invested the team’s third-round draft pick on a tight end.
In 2019, Jace Sterberger was the sixth tight end chosen, at # 75. This time, Josiah DeGuara became the third tight end taken, at #94. That’s a significant outlay. While I’ve criticized drafting tight ends in the third round in consecutive years, that’s now the reality, so it’s time to move forward.
Will the Packers actually throw a barrage of two tight end formations at their opponents this year? If they don’t, then they won’t be optimizing their talent.
Total Packers’ Ed Rooney cited DeGuara’s versatility, good hands, and run blocking abilities. He adds that in his first season in the pros Deguara will likely see the field mostly on special teams and as a blocker in short-yardage situations. I’m hoping for more.
The Packers have not utilized its tight ends effectively for well over a decade – maybe ever. It’s high time for the endless parade of tight end acquisitions to produce some beneficial results.
First off, we ought to have a dandy competition between Jace Sternberger and Josiah Degurara over the starting tight end slot. If they both perform as well as Gutekunst and LaFleur must think they will, then there’s the enticing prospect of seriously using the two-tight-end formation. I didn’t see it bear much fruit in 2019, but maybe now we’ve got the players to make it dangerous.
Unlike many tight ends, both these youngsters appear to be good blockers and good receivers. Therefore, the two-tight-end look aid in having a strong run formation as well as one that presents some difficult pass defensive challenges to the opposition.
While I previously predicted that Sternberger is about to have a breakout year, Degurara is actually a far more athletic guy. In particular, his 25 bench presses at the NFL Combine is at the 87th percentile for tight ends. Though both players have above-average dash times, the new guy is slightly faster (4.72 vs 4.75 dash times). We’re talking about two powerful, but at the same time agile, bodies.
The investment’s been made, so if each of these tight ends proves to be NFL-caliber, let’s put them both on the field as much as possible.
Additionally, it’s a way to compensate for having such an iffy group of wide receivers.
These two tight ends are anything but lemons. All the same, isn’t it time for Matt LaFleur to mix up some lemonade?