Position Series: Tight Ends

Jermichael Finley (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Led by Jermichael Finley, the Packers will take seven tight ends to training camp. Last season, they carried five on the regular-season roster.

OVERVIEW

Will the real Jermichael Finley please report to training camp?

Over the final seven games of 2009, Finley ranked third among tight ends with 37 catches, then destroyed Arizona for six catches and 159 yards. In 2010, he caught 21 passes in the first four games before a season-ending knee injury. Last season, however, was a disappointment. He dropped 17.9 percent of the "catchable" balls thrown his way, according to ProFootballFocus.com, with his 12 drops leading league tight ends.

The Packers kept five tight ends last season, though that number might be trimmed to four to start this season if Andrew Quarless (knee) starts the year on the physically unable to perform list. It's a demanding position, with a tight end lined up as a "traditional" tight end on one snap, split out wide the next and at fullback the next.

DEPTH CHART

Jermichael Finley (6-5, 247; fifth year): Even though he led NFL tight ends with 12 drops (plus two in the playoffs), Finley tallied 55 catches for 767 yards. His eight touchdowns ranked third at the position. Paul Coffman holds the team's tight ends record with 56 receptions. Finley twice has posted 55-catch seasons. With the contract behind him and the knee injury more of a distant memory, look for him to reach his immense potential, even if that doesn't mean Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski numbers.

Tom Crabtree (6-4, 245; third year): The rugged Crabtree played in all 16 games for the second consecutive season. He started nine games and finished with six receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown. Getting about 20 snaps per game, he was used as a blocker 71.3 percent of the time. In two years, he's got 18 tackles on special teams.

D.J. Williams (6-2, 245; second year): In his last three seasons at Arkansas, Williams caught 147 passes. As a rookie fifth-round pick, he caught two passes for 13 yards. He played in 13 games but saw action on offense in only nine of them. Perhaps landed in the doghouse after costing the team a timeout when he ran onto the field late on Oct. 14 against Minnesota. He was inactive for the next three games and only got back into the rotation because of Quarless' injury.

Ryan Taylor (6-3, 254; second year): The seventh-rounder was a special-teams demon at North Carolina, and he played a big role in the Packers' special teams going from weakness to strength with 10 tackles. Taylor didn't see action on offense until Quarless' injury. On his first career snap from scrimmage, he scored a 1-yard touchdown against Oakland — his only catch of the season.

Andrew Quarless (6-4, 252; third year): As a rookie, Quarless caught 21 passes while replacing the injured Finley. Last year, Quarless caught just three passes but was a valuable blocker until tearing his ACL and MCL on Dec. 4. Getting about 20 snaps per game, Quarless was used as as a blocker 76.5 percent of the time.

Eric Lair (6-2, 238; UDFA): As a junior at Minnesota, the athletic Lair caught 39 passes with Adam Weber at quarterback. However, a change in head coaches meant the offense revolved around a running quarterback rather than a passer. His production slumped to 11 catches as a senior.

Brandon Bostick (6-3, 245; UDFA): Bostick played wide receiver for Division II Newberry, leaving the school ranked fourth with 136 receptions, third with 1,935 yards and second with 19 touchdown grabs. Bostick participated in the Packers' rookie camp on a tryout basis but wasn't signed until a couple weeks later.

Total: 7. On 2011 opening roster: 5.

Final prediction (4): Finley, Crabtree, Williams and Taylor.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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