Familiar faces for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Aug. 21, 2014
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers likes what he sees when he looks around the Green Bay Packers' No. 1 offense: Familiar faces.
With running back Eddie Lacy in the backfield, top wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb entrenched and first-year starting center JC Tretter established as the clear-cut choice in the middle of the line, continuity has reigned throughout training camp on offense. It's been the most consistent group for Rodgers since he became the team's starting quarterback in 2008.
The glaring exception is at tight end, where the Packers are still trying to determine roles preparing for Friday night's home preseason game against Oakland.
Jermichael Finley suffered a career-threatening neck injury last October and remains a free agent amid uncertainty as to whether he will ever resume playing.
The competition to replace him has included fifth-year veteran Andrew Quarless, who started 10 games last season; rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers, who has started each of the first two preseason games; Brandon Bostick, who played in 11 games last season, his first on the 53-man roster; and Jake Stoneburner and Ryan Taylor, both of whom have played more on special teams than on offense.
Another tight end, undrafted rookie free agent Colt Lyerla, suffered a knee injury Aug. 2 and is expected to be on injured reserve this season.
"I think they're just putting it out there for the taking," said Quarless, who had back-to-back games in which he caught six passes for 66 yards and a touchdown last December, in victories over Dallas and Atlanta. "Coming back into it, I knew it was something I was going to have to earn."
The tight end rotation last week at St. Louis had Richard Rodgers starting the game and playing all 12 plays during the opening touchdown drive, although he did not catch a pass. He had one catch for 10 yards in the preseason opener at Tennessee.
Asked if a rookie could be the team's every-down tight end, tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said: "I think he has the tools to, yeah. Again, we've got a ways to go to get there. But he certainly has the tools."
Bostick took over on the second series but suffered a lower leg injury and departed after four plays. Quarless entered and had a 35-yard catch that set up a field goal.
"I really like the growth (at the tight end position). I think that group jumped out in the spring and I think they carried it on throughout the training camp," coach Mike McCarthy said.
While the Packers have historically kept four to five tight ends on the roster during McCarthy's previous eight seasons, they usually have defined roles and Finley was the unquestioned starter when healthy.
Now, the position is wide open with just over two weeks to go until the Sept. 4 regular-season opener at Seattle.
"Everybody in the room gets an opportunity to step up," Fontenot said. "And every opportunity you get, you need to make the most of it because I think that the competition in our room is thickening. It's going to be a tough decision come the final week of the preseason."