The Green Bay Packers entered this offseason with a huge hole at tight end following the injury to former starter Jermichael Finley. Yet, the 2014 NFL Draft was strong at tight end and it appears that Green Bay may have found its next starter in third-round draft choice Richard Rodgers.
Rodgers, a 6-4, 245-pound tight end from the University of Cal didn’t receive much fanfare when he was drafted by the Packers, in fact some viewed the move as a reach but Green Bay thought otherwise as Rodgers was identified as having the best hands of any tight end in the draft and after an impressive performance in Packers’ OTA’s, that may be true.
When he was first selected, it did not seem likely that the former Cal standout would push for the starting position right away but after catching the attention of head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in OTA’s, the door is wide open for him to start and he seems poised to take advantage of the opportunity.
One thing that helps Rodgers is that the tight end’s role in Green Bay’s offense revolves heavily around pass-catching. Sure, the tight ends are expected to block but the Finley wasn’t a great blocker either and the biggest thing the Packers need to replace is his ability to make impact plays in the passing game.
However, despite his impressive performance this offseason, starting jobs in the NFL aren’t won in June, they are won in August, meaning Rodgers is going to have consistently prove he is the best tight end throughout training camp and the preseason to lock down the starting spot. The third-rounder will also face stiff competition from Andrew Quarless, who started 10 games for the Packers last season after Finley went down to injury.
In those 10 games, Quarless was effective but not spectacular. He posted a career-high 32 receptions for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Yet, as the season wore on, he became more of a threat in the passing game and in back-to-back weeks against Dallas and Atlanta, Quarless had six receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. The former Penn State product is also a more polished blocker than Rodgers, which gives him a slight advantage.
The other player in the mix to start for the Packers at tight end this season is third-year man Brandon Bostick, a former college receiver turned tight end that has taken big steps forward in each of his two NFL seasons. In 2013, Bostick was limited to just 11 games but did have seven receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown, flashing the kind of big-play ability he possess.
Bostick has continued to improve as a blocker and even was a key player on Green Bay’s special teams last season and if he can prove he can hold his own as a blocker he might have the best chance to knock off Rodgers because of his own ability to make impact plays in the passing game.
In the end, it will be a fascinating to watch the three men compete in what will be one the most watched position battles of training camp. Quarless is probably the favorite to start thanks to his 15 career starts and familiarity with the system, yet, the Packers know that the NFL is a young man’s game and if Rodgers proves he can handle blocking in the NFL, while continuing to turn heads with his playmaking ability, there is no way Green Bay can keep him off the field.