To continue our breakdown of each positional group for the Green Bay Packers, we will be diving in to the tight end group. The group comes into the new season under a mini overhaul. Gone is Jimmy Graham who signed with their rival Chicago Bears. Graham, who signed with the Packers in 2018, was supposed to fill a long void at the tight end position, who haven’t had a play-maker since the days of Jermichael Finley.
Many had believed the Packers would dive into the free agent market and go after the likes of Austin Hooper, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, to solidify the position. Instead, they stayed pat and the only addition was made through the draft.
Currently the group consist of veterans Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan, 2nd year pro Jace Sternberger and 4th round draft pick Josiah Deguara.
Sternberger, drafted in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft. He spent the majority of the 2019 season on the injured reserve (IR) due to an injury suffered in the preseason. He played in six games, but did not catch a pass until the postseason against the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round.
Expectations are high coming in to his second year now that Graham is gone. As I have mentioned in previous articles, Sternberger was drafted to be the future of the position.
Sternberger has the physical traits to be a vertical threat downfield. His senior at Texas A&M, his lone year starting, he averaged 17.3 yards per reception. He totaled 832 yards on 43 receptions.
Lewis, who is entering his 15th year in the league and 3rd with the Packers is a veteran voice in a group of young tight ends. The veteran tight end has done little in the receiving department since joining the Packers. His primary duty has been as a blocker. He caught one touchdown last year on 15 receptions.
Lewis is no longer the receiving threat he used to be while he was in Jacksonville. He can still bring a veteran presence in a young locker room, be an effective blocker and an occasional receiving threat out of play action.
The Packers surprised many when they chose Deguara in the 3rd round. Multiple scouts and draft analysts pegged Deguara as a day three developmental project. The grades on Deguara being taken in the 3rd round were not friendly to the Packers.
NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlen said, “He’s the type of Day 3 prospect who flies under the radar, but ends up becoming a solid contributor at H-back.”
Head Coach Matt Lafleur and General Manager Brian Gutenkust like the promise Deguara brings.
“As we went through the process, that’s a guy that Matt (LaFleur) was very, very excited about. I think he’ll be able to line up in-line with his hand down. I think he’ll line up in the slot, back as a fullback, an H-back. But I think he can be a matchup piece that can move into all those different spots. He’s a very smart kid. Obviously, he’s been very productive as a pass catcher,” Gutenkust said.
Lafleur comes from the Shanahan/Mcvay coaching philosophy. Shanahan has his own “h-back” in Kyle Juszczyk, and it is easy to see Lafleur doing the same with Deguara.
Deguara could easily develop into more than just an h-back role, but his immediate impact most likely will be in that area. The Packers lack a fullback, but Deguara also has experience at multiple positions, which will make it easier for him to get on the field right away.
Tonyan, who now enters his 3rd year with the Packers, has been inconsistent, but has also offered the Packers some splash plays. In 2018, Tonyan caught a 54 yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers against the Seahawks when he beat the defender down the middle of the field. He also made an athletic catch against the Dallas Cowboys last year. Yet he only had 10 receptions last year in 11 games.
He has been overshadowed by Graham since joining the Packers. Tonyan wont have it any easier with Deguara and Sternberger around. Not many expect Tonyan to compete for the starting job against Sternberger and Deguara, but he can still fill out a role as a steady rotational player to spell those two and Lewis.
Sternberger and Deguara, two young players, competing for a starting role for the 2020 season and beyond. Lewis and Tonyan, the veterans in the group, will be competing playing time and a role on the team.
The likelihood all four above are kept is high due to the roster space left void at fullback. Many believe Deguara will fill that role during his rookie season. Sternberger and Lewis will take the majority of reps at tight end.
Sternberger has a chance to show why he was selected in the 2nd round and be a playmaker down the middle-of-the-field Rodgers has missed since the days of Finley and Cook.
This group is young and full of potential for the future. They also have a chance to make an impact in 2020 with a wide receiver group lacking weapons behind Davante Adams.