Jermichael Finley is coming off the best season of his career. He tied a season-high with 55 catches and set personal standards for receiving yards (767) and touchdowns (eight). Most importantly, Finley was injury free in 2011 and played in all 16 games, a first for him. How much better would his stats have been had he eliminated the dropped passes?
That'll likely be Finley's goal in 2012, as he heads a talented corps of tight ends that numbered five last season. Finley is their star, and armed with a new contract that put a smile on his face, one of the most athletically gifted tight ends in the game is expected to reach new heights this season.
Behind Finley are Andrew Quarless, Tom Crabtree and 2011 rookies D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor. Joining them in training camp this season are undrafted free agents Brandon Bostick and Eric Lair.
If wide receiver is the deepest position on the Packers roster, then tight end can't be far behind. In fact, one will likely impact the other as to how many players are kept at each position. Last year, the Packers kept five at each position. Is talk of keeping six wide receivers this season a hint the tight ends might be reduced by one?
Last year, Finley was coming off a serious knee injury that halted his 2010 season after five games. Would he make a complete recovery? Would he make it through a whole season? The answers were yes and yes, which gives the Packers a greater degree of security at the position heading into this training camp.At 6-5, 247, Finley is a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators, but a matchup dream for Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy and Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements. Is this the season Finley breaks out and into the ranks of the elite tight ends?
Quarless is coming off knee reconstruction and is expected to continue his recovery into training camp. How soon and how fully he recovers will obviously impact the position. When healthy, Quarless is an in-line blocker and deep-seam receiver.
Crabtree is a rugged blocker and special teams player. Taylor became a special teams star as a rookie seventh-round pick last season, and began to show some flashes of receiving skills in OTAs this past spring.
Williams is a smallish tight end who's viewed more as an H-back. Williams' skills are clearly in the receiving category and the fifth-round pick from Arkansas is thought to have upside in McCarthy's tight end-friendly offense.
As deep as it is, tight end is a position that almost certainly will be defined by Finley. Is this the season he becomes a star?