This is the first in a series of position previews as the Green Bay Packers prepare to open training camp to prepare for the 2020 NFL season.
There are a lot of things we don’t know about the Green Bay Packers tight end situation entering the 2020 season but one thing is for certain: there will be a new starter at the position. Last year’s number one tight end, Jimmy Graham, was released during the offseason and is now with the Chicago Bears.
The Packers have no sure things at tight end but a lot of potentially talented players at the position. Matt LaFleur likes to utilize his tight ends both as receivers and as blockers, so look for this position to be an important part of the offense in 2020.
Here is a look at the Packers tight end position as the team prepares for training camp:
Likely Starter: Jace Sternberger
Sternberger is the favorite to replace Graham as the number one receiving tight end. The second-year man out of Texas A&M was active for six regular season games for the Packers last season after missing the first half of the season due to injury. He has yet to catch a pass in a regular season game but did make three catches for 15 yards and a touchdown in the Packers two playoff games last season.
Sternberger has good size at 6’4” and 251 pounds and good hands. He also proved himself to be a willing blocker despite questions about that coming out of college.
The big issue with Sternberger is inexperience. He essentially played one season at Texas A&M and half a season in Green Bay so he still has a lot to learn about the position.
Sternberger has a lot of potential and a good work ethic. How quickly he realizes that potential will be a big factor in how much he is able to contribute to the Packers offense this season. Look for a solid season from Sternberger with even better years ahead.
Likely Backups: Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Josiah Deguara
Lewis provides the Packers with two vital things: he is a very skilled blocker and he has a lot of experience which benefits the otherwise young players on this roster.
At this stage in his career, Lewis is an outlet receiver at best, but he still has sure hands and can pick up yards after the catch with his vision and determination.
Tonyan was slowed by injuries last year and caught only 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in 11 games. He has good downfield speed and knows how to run routes as he was a wide receiver in college. This may be Tonyan’s last chance to show he can become a steady contributor in the NFL.
Deguara will play many roles this year after the Packers drafted him in the third round of the draft. He will play some H-back, some traditional tight end and may line up outside on occasion as well. His versatility and size should give him an increasing role as the season progresses, but the truncated offseason and training camp may limit his ability to contribute right away.
Longshots: Evan Baylis and James Looney
Baylis made the practice squad last season and was activated for three games playing 12 snaps on offense and 53 on special teams. This will be his fourth season in an NFL training camp. He played with the Texans, Colts and Panthers before the Packers signed him in December of 2018. Baylis has enjoyed solid preseasons with the Packers and will need another one to remain on the practice squad or roster this season.
Looney is an interesting story. He has been converted to tight end after being drafted as a defensive lineman by the Packers in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He has raw blocking skills and has trimmed down to 256 pounds to make the position change work. The potential is there, but Looney is likely to make the practice squad if he shows enough ability to convince the coaching staff he has a future at tight end.
The Packers don’t have a proven starter on the roster, but there are a lot of players with potential. The team is hoping Sternberger establishes himself as the number one tight end with Lewis available to mentor the younger players and provide leadership and dependability. Tonyan needs to show he can get the job done consistently while Deguara’s role may grow as the season progresses depending on how quickly he can pick up the playbook and adjust to the NFL game. This position could be a strength for the Packers in the best case scenario, but it could also be shaky if none of the young players are ready to step up and show they are ready for prime time.
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