Packers In Depth Position Preview: Tight Ends

Packers In Depth Position Preview: Tight Ends

NFL

Packers In Depth Position Preview: Tight Ends

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The Packers will open training camp later this month in preparation for the 2021 NFL season. This is the first in a series of in-depth articles previewing each position group for the Packers. We will discuss each player at the position, provide a depth chart and analysis of each player on the 90-man roster, their skill set, what they need to improve on and what is expected of them in 2021.

We will start with the tight ends. Green Bay has depth at this position and is hoping they can use the mix of talents they have to make tight end a big part of their offense. Head coach Matt LaFleur likes to use his tight ends in several different ways and each player on the roster will be expected to assume one or more of those roles during the season.

Here is a look at the Packers tight end depth chart entering training camp:

  1. Robert Tonyan

Tonyan had a breakout season in 2020 and established himself as the Packers top receiving tight end. The former Indiana State star set career highs with 52 catches for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. He proved he was an outstanding red zone target and LaFleur loves to scheme him open when the team is close to the goal line.

Tonyan had an incredible season, catching 52 balls on just 59 targets according to pro-football-reference.com which gave him an impressive 88.1 percent catch percentage.

He is a willing blocker for a receiving tight end and will be looking to prove 2020 was no fluke.

LaFleur has indicated he wants to use Tonyan even more this year than he did last season. If he can continue to develop, a Pro Bowl is a real possibility for Tonyan.

  1. Marcedes Lewis

Lewis is the Packers top blocking tight end. His leadership and savvy make him one of the most respected players in the locker room and he’s almost like an assistant coach on the field and on the sidelines.

At this stage of his career, Lewis lacks the speed to go deep downfield, but he has reliable hands near the goal line and for check down passes.

“Big Dog” is one of the most popular players on the roster and his blocking ability and experience make him more valuable than his statistics from last year (10 catches, 107 yards, three touchdowns) indicate.

  1. Jace Sternberger

Sternberger is entering his third season with the team and this is a make or break year for the former Texas A&M star. Injuries and illnesses have slowed his progress thus far and the former third-round pick will start this season with a two-game suspension after using anti-depressants and alcohol and falling asleep at the wheel early in 2020.

Sternberger has the speed to be a stretch the field kind of tight end but he has yet to show he can consistently perform at the NFL level.

In 2020, he finished with 12 catches for 114 yards and his first career regular-season touchdown.

If Sternberger can realize his potential, he can add another dimension to the offense. His strength is receiving while his blocking is a bit below average thus far.

Sternberger needs to stay healthy and have a strong camp to establish that he has a place on this roster and can contribute to the offense.

  1. Josiah Deguara

Injuries cut short Deguara’s rookie season after he played in only two early-season games. The former University of Cincinnati star caught one pass for 12 yards.

LaFleur projects Deguara as more of an H-back. He will line up at tight end and at fullback and will be blocking and catching passes.

The coach was excited about Deguara after the draft and if he’s healthy and ready to go, expect him to see a lot of playing time this year in the H-back and tight end spots.

  1. Dominique Dafney

Dafney was one of the feel good stories in Green Bay late last season. The undrafted free agent played in the final five games of the regular season and showed himself to be a solid blocker and contributed consistently on special teams.

He caught two passes for 26 yards including his first career NFL touchdown. The joy on the former Indiana State star’s face was contagious.

Dafney will be fighting for a roster spot in camp this year. He needs to continue to show progress in his development and to show that last year’s performance was no fluke. His strong play on special teams may give him an edge for making the final roster or at least sticking around on the practice squad.

  1. Isaac Nauta

Nauta was a seventh round pick of the Lions in 2019 and caught three passes for 16 yards total in his first two seasons in the league.

The former Georgia star lacks top-line speed for an NFL tight end and may be better suited to a blocking/H-back kind of role.

He does have good hands and a good first step off the ball but lacks the speed to get separation from defenders.

The Packers signed him to the practice squad in December and brought him back to training camp this year.

  1. Bronson Kaufusi

Kaufusi is a bit of a project. The BYU alum is 30 and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 as a defensive lineman. He joined the Jets in 2018 and after two seasons, was converted to tight end in 2020 and spent the year on the practice squad.

At 6’6” and 275 pounds, he has the size to be a good blocker. He ran a 4.87 at the combine in 2016 which would make him slow for a tight end but quick for a defensive lineman. He will probably shed a few pounds to compete at tight end which may increase his speed and quickness.

The Packers signed him this past January and are bringing him into camp. His age and the position change make him a long shot to make the roster. He will have to show he can contribute on special teams and that he is ready to play tight end in the NFL to earn a spot on the practice squad or the roster.

OVERALL:

The Packers have a diverse group of players at tight end who can fill many roles. Tonyan should have the most catches with Deguara the likely starter at H-back. Expect Lewis to continue to play a similar role as the top blocking tight end. Sternberger won’t be available for the first two games of the season and needs have a good training camp to prove he can contribute.

If Tonyan takes another step forward, he could go to his first Pro Bowl. He really deserved to go last season. Look for this group to be featured a lot in the offense but the wealth may be spread out which is not a bad thing.

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