Here's the second installment of my analysis of the Packers depth chart now that the off-season program is finished and the 2013 training camp is fast approaching. In part 2, we'll take a look at the pass catchers for Aaron Rodgers.
Mike McCarthy needs it, the fans want it and Jermichael Finley knows it. This has got to be the year. The now 6th year pro came on strong last season, finishing with a career high (and Packer tight end record) 61 receptions, but for only two touchdowns after scoring 8 in 2011. The flashes are awe inspiring but they must come more frequently with a perimiter passing game missing two pro bowl receivers (more on that in a bit). Finley has added weight this off-season. Hopefully bigger will be better. McCarthy's offense deploys two and on occassion, three tight end formations. With Tom Crabtree now in Tampa, the number two job appears to belong to Andrew Quarless. Fully recovered from a nasty knee injury suffered two seasons ago, Quarless looked really good in the spring camps. D.J. Williams is another player who needs to become a more consistent player. He has the tools and this fall could finally provide the opportunity. Ryan Taylor is a valuable special teams player and should hold off challenges from undrafted free agents. Brian Bostick spent last year on the practice squad and his size could lead to him finding a spot on the active roster. Matthew Mulligan is extremely thick, 6-4 and 257 and is more of an old school tight end, lining up next to the tackle to help the run game. Ohio State rookie Jake Stoneburner will need an incredible camp to stick.
How do you replace 1,168 receptions, 16,674 yards and 114 touchdowns? Those are the regular season combined career numbers of Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. The dancing champ called it a career and Jennings called the Vikings and a huge production void has been created. The Packers are hoping there is strength in numbers for they have a dozen receivers on the roster heading to camp. Next in line for star status is Randall Cobb. I'll put him number one on the list for he became Aaron's primary target last year with a breakout, team leading 80 receptions. McCarthy handed off to the third year pro from Kentucky 10 times and Cobb also handled 69 punt and kickoff returns. He smashed the single season all purpose yardage record and will again be creatively utilized to make sure the ball gets into his hands. Jordy Nelson battled injury last season after hauling in 15 touchdowns in 2011. He's developed into a top flight NFL receiver that will split wide the majority of the time. James Jones was the number five a year ago and was tempted to leave via free agency but he came back and produced a career year, 16 starts, 64 catches and a team high 14 touchdowns. Even without Driver and Jennings, the Packers have a trio better than most in the NFL. I'll put Jeremy Ross in the 4th spot. A late addition who also doubled in the return game, will shake off the playoff fumble in San Francisco and likely take much of Cobb's special teams duties away. Jarrett Boykin knows the offense from his practice squad days and part time duty in 10 games last season. Next in line are two undrafted free agents, Myles White from LSU and Tyrone Walker out of Illinois State. These two rookies got a ton of snaps during the mini-camps and OTA's and gave a good accounting of themselves, earning praise from Mr. Rodgers himself. I have them for now, ahead of the two drafted receivers. Seventh rounders Charles Johnson of Grand Valley State and Kevin Dorsey of Maryland were only spectators this spring. Johnson maybe practiced once. Without having a chance to see them run or catch, the jury will stay out until camp. Because of those injuries, which included Boykin late in the OTA's, the Packers needed to keep signing receivers just to keep the numbers up. That list included Sederrick Cunningham, then Alex Gillett and finally Terrell Sinkfield. Don't think we'll have to spend much time getting to know them, they'll get early calls from The Turk in August.