TEs: 2015 Packers by position

TEs: 2015 Packers by position

Taking a closer look at the tight end position as the Green Bay Packers prepare for training camp, which kicks off with its first practice Thursday morning:

Depth chart










Andrew Quarless





Penn State


Richard Rodgers







Justin Perillo







Kennard Backman







Mitchell Henry





W. Kentucky


Harold Spears





New Hampshire


Burning Question

Are the Packers deep enough at the position?

Although they ended up not signing Jermaine Gresham – the 21st overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals on Friday – the fact that the Packers brought the former Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round pick in for a visit on Thursday goes to show that this position is not as deep as Packers GM Ted Thompson would like it to be. In fact, it’s hard to believe this is the same team that, once upon a time, was carrying five tight ends on the 53-man roster.

Last season, after cutting Ryan Taylor in October, the Packers promoted Perillo from the practice squad as the No. 4 tight end behind Quarless, Rodgers and Brandon Bostick. Bostick’s career with the Packers ended with his fateful decision to try to field a late onside kick in the NFC Championship Game – when his job was to block and not try to touch the ball at all – and it was hard not to wonder if Taylor, a key special-teams contributor, would have made such a mistake.

Perillo only played in two games, but that makes him the third-most experienced tight end on the roster as the other three are rookies. No wonder the Packers decided Gresham, who was a disappointment with the Bengals, was worth considering, even if they never made him a contract offer.

On the rise


When you come on late in the year the way Rodgers did after an inauspicious start – he didn’t catch a pass in five of his first six NFL games, and before catching four passes for 58 yards in a Week 8 game at New Orleans, he’d managed only three receptions for 53 yards in the previous seven weeks – expectations rise, too.

Of his 25 total receptions in regular- and post-season play, 10 came in the final three games the Packers played: Five in the regular-season finale against Detroit, and five more in the playoffs. While the Packers feel good about their wide receiver depth, coach Mike McCarthy’s offense has always functioned better when there’s a tight end occupying a safety or drawing other defensive attention away from the other eligible receivers.

Rodgers doesn’t have to put up huge numbers – the Packers would be thrilled if he did, of course – but he has to do more to command the attention of opposing defenses.

Player to watch


The sixth-round pick from Alabama-Birmingham is a very good athlete, and although there’s a little bit of basketball-player-playing-football aura to him – Backman was a top-level hoopster as a prep – with the dearth of proven tight end options on the roster, he could work his way into the rotation quickly. Certainly he’ll have to contribute on special teams to get those opportunities, but his speed and athleticism make him an intriguing player. While no one is going to confuse him with Jermichael Finley at this point in his development, the Packers would love to see the kid develop into a pass-catcher who puts his athleticism to good use. It may take him awhile to become a serviceable blocker, but if he picks up the offense, he could chip in in the passing game almost right away.

Key competition

Quarless vs. Rodgers.

A year ago, the coaches did everything they could to give Rodgers every opportunity to be the guy. He started to begin the season, but when he did little early in the season, Quarless took over. He ended up playing 715 snaps to Rodgers’ 543 on the year (including playoffs), and had made enough gains during the offseason that both his coaches and his quarterback took notice. His arrest in Miami Beach, Fla., for allegedly firing his handgun during an argument didn’t lead to his immediate release, but it certainly isn’t the kind of offseason incident a player who took part in the team’s Tailgate Tour and said he was aiming to be on par with perennial Pro Bowl tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham should be involved in.

When asked what Quarless’ offseason work might mean for him, tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot replied, “He does a lot of things well and he gets opportunities. The more you do things right, the more opportunities that that equates to. As long as he plays well, he’ll continue to get more opportunities. He works very hard at his craft. We’ll keep moving forward and hopefully things continue to improve.”

If Rodgers continues improving at his current rate, though, it’s hard to see him not getting more snaps than Quarless this season if both stay healthy – especially if Rodgers’ blocking improves the way Fontenot expects it to.

Quote, unquote

“I think his route-running, he’s pretty keen as far as understanding coverages, understanding what his body gives him. He’s very efficient with his movements. In that area, I haven’t really changed anything or tried to. The things that we talked about, the things we really wanted to improve at the end of the season – and in my mind, I think I conveyed it clearly to him – in my opinion, we need to improve our foot speed in the run game to be able to get our feet in the ground and anchor guys at the line of scrimmage. Be sure that we’re not giving up penetration. So from that aspect he’s been working very hard.” – Fontenot, on Rodgers’ need to improve his blocking.