The Green Bay Packers are known for their extraordinary passing attack led by the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has several weapons in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Eddie Lacy, among others. However, one aspect of the Packer’s passing game has remained relatively stagnant: the tight end position. The position has seen major changes in previous years for both the Packers and the NFL, and the Packers are looking to address this influential position to bolster their passing attack for 2015.
Andrew Quarless fired shots this offseason that were heard by Green Bay Packers’ coaches and fans. This past July, Quarless was arrested in Miami, FL for firing several shots from a handgun into the air. Quarless later fled the scene, before being arrested later that day. So when Quarless was absent from the first two days of this year’s training camp, doubt started setting in on the 26-year old tight end.
But Quarless’s offseason issues go past the sport of football, yesterday, Quarless returned to the practice field following the death of his newborn daughter.
“This past Wednesday, July 29, I lost my daughter on delivery.” Quarless told reporters, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Probably the saddest day of my life.”
During the 2014 season, Quarless took a step in the right direction with his play on the field. Quarless snagged 23 passes for three touchdowns, including a game-winner against the Miami Dolphins. Quarless was headed towards a potential breakout campaign in 2015.
Aside of his offseason arrest, Quarless returned to practice yesterday for the Packers for the first time this season. Although too early to analyze Quarless’ play, it sounds like Quarless will be ready to go for the Packer’s Family Night Scrimmage on Saturday.
Whether the Packers are comfortable moving forward with Quarless remains to be seen. With the increased role of Richard Rodgers last season, we may see a one-two punch from the Green Bay Packers tight ends this season.
Packers fans and front office are excited about the potential of Richard Rodgers, an up-and-coming tight end who saw most of his production come in the latter half of the 2014 season. Last season Rodgers was seen as primarily a backup to Quarless, and also saw time in special packages. However, this season Rodgers has a fair shot at the starting tight end position.
So far, Rodgers has also proven to be one of the highlights for the Packers thus far in training camp. Last year Rodgers’ blocking was noticeably inconsistent and needed correcting, but throughout camp it seems Rodgers has worked off last season’s struggles.
One aspect of Rodgers’ game that sets him apart is his superior route running, large frame, and consistency. In his five starts last season, Rodgers totaled two touchdowns and caught just over two-thirds of passes thrown to him, a problem the Packers saw with Quarless and Jermichael Finley in the past.
Rodgers has an upright chance to take over the tight end position for the Packers, and could create a great Rodgers to Rodgers connection in Green Bay.
The next four players likely won’t be household names for Packer’s fans, but there is a good chance more than one of them will make the 2015 roster. Justin Perillo is entering his second NFL training camp, after being signed to the 53-man roster last season with the Packers. Perillo made several starts on special teams.
Although Perillo was brought onto the roster with very little experience, and is entering this season with limited gameplay, Perillo has been noted as hardworking, and tough. This toughness and special teams experience may not provide much for the tight end position just yet, but it shows he can be trusted on special teams.
Seeing as though there are several insecurities for the Packers at this position, Perillo and Kennard Backman both have a chance at filling the last roster spots. However, the depth of this position relies heavily on Quarless’ fallout from his arrest in Miami. If Quarless’ suspension results in a loss of several games, Perillo may have the upper hand due to experience.
Headlining the set of rookies looking to make an impression early in camp is Kennard Backman. Backman is coming into camp from the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB), where he brought an interesting set of skills to the Blazers, a skill set that may give him an upper hand when fighting for a roster spot.
Backman drew particular interest in the 2015 NFL Draft due to his superior athleticism shown at UAB. In particular, Backman showed speed, height, and an overwhelming drive to succeed. This skill set is something the Packers saw in the sixth round of this year’s draft, where Backman was consequently selected.
This offseason, Backman has impressed fans and Packers personnel. Due to Backman’s success with running the seam route and getting open down-field, Backman may pose as a more reliable roster spot in case of Quarless’ suspension.
Interestingly enough, Backman is another high school basketball standout, that also stood out in the receiving game. In fact, Backman didn’t play football until his sophomore year in high school, and drew several school’s interest due to his play on the basketball court. Instead, Backman pursued football, and now has a shot for a spot on an NFL roster.
Mitchell Henry & Harold Spears
Mitchell Henry may sound like a longshot to make the Packers 53-man roster, and may not seem like someone who would gain attention during training camp. But Henry has been noted as a player to watch throughout the Packer’s preseason schedule. Henry provides a large frame and an unprecedented play-making ability that could “wow” the Packers when preseason competition comes around.
Henry, a standout tight end at Western Kentucky last season joins several other rookies in a relatively crowded depth chart. Along with Henry, Harold Spears is searching for a roster spot. Spears was signed by the New Orleans Saints following the 2015 draft, but was released only six days later. The Packers then made a move for Spears, who performed well throughout his career at the University of New Hampshire. Spears flaunts another 6’4″ frame, but brings great athleticism. In his four years at New Hampshire, Spears caught 12 touchdowns for just over 1,600 yards.
Needless to say, the Packers tight end corps brings a lot of skill into the 2015 roster. Although there are currently six players residing on the roster, we will likely see that number cut in half come the start of the regular season. Which players will earn a roster spot throughout training camp and preseason?
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