Packers trust Josiah Deguara to know it all at tight end

Fourth-year pro back in multi-pronged role after missing time in training camp

TE Josiah Deguara

GREEN BAY – Early in Monday's practice during a routes-on-air drill, Packers tight end Josiah Deguara dropped a throw near the sideline that hit him right in the hands, and he muttered some self-displeasure under his breath as he picked up the loose ball.

During the rest of the workout inside the Don Hutson Center, no one would ever know his day started with such a frustrating mistake.

"You try to go out there with the mindset to have a perfect practice, but you know it's not going to be like that," Deguara said afterward. "Going into my fourth year now I've learned it's just a one-play mindset. Where something like that might've bothered me back in the day, now I'm able to just get past it and have a good rest of practice."

That he did, pulling down a tough, contested catch against rookie safety Anthony Johnson Jr. in a one-on-one rep, and beating veteran safety Dallin Leavitt for a breakaway reception later in the period.

Then during 11-on-11 work, he moved across the formation to block the backside pursuit, allowing running back Aaron Jones to cut back for a nice gain. He also picked up a blitz in the backfield to allow a clean slant throw to receiver Romeo Doubs.

Deguara is getting his training camp legs under him after missing some time with a calf injury, and he's back taking his share of the reps with the No. 1 offense. Over the course of an entire practice, he'll line up just about anywhere – a step back from the line as an off-set tight end, standing up and split out as a slot receiver, or in the backfield like a fullback.

He views the mental challenge of knowing all the different alignments and responsibilities as one to cherish. His jack-of-all-trades execution becomes even more valuable to the Packers in 2023 now that Tyler Davis is out for the season with a knee injury and the two rookie draft picks, Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft, still have so much to learn.

"I welcome it," he said. "I want to do as much for the team as I can, and if that's lining up in every spot possible, I'll do that. I enjoy my role.

"Obviously I have to dive into the playbook and make sure I'm on my game, because I can be in there in any personnel (grouping), any formation. So I have to know the playbook like the back of my hand. I just have to put the work in, and I know the team trusts me to be able to do that."

The Packers also are counting on Deguara to guide Musgrave and Tucker through their rookie seasons, knowing their roles and resulting statistics might be more glamorous than his. Over the last two seasons, after missing most of his rookie 2020 season due to a knee injury, Deguara has a modest 38 receptions for 359 yards and two TDs.

The expectations for the young guys are higher, particularly for the second-round pick Musgrave, who has been getting first-team snaps from the get-go and brings a size-speed combination the Packers haven't possessed at tight end in quite some time.

Asked about the two rookies, Deguara used the word "impressive" multiple times, and he enjoys working with them as a collective group, which also includes undrafted Austin Allen but no longer features Davis when they hit the field.

Davis tore an ACL in the preseason opener at Cincinnati last Friday and is out for the year, the same place Deguara was three years ago, only his injury occurred in Week 4 of the regular season. As he's done with other teammates, like former position mate Robert Tonyan back in 2021, Deguara has given Davis a copy of the book that helped him through the ordeal – "Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny" by Tony Evans.

"I want to be there for him," Deguara said. "I want him to lean on me. I told him any questions … (the book) pretty much talks about how the adversity we go through in life, it puts us in a place to seek God's purpose for our life."

A growing leadership role is part of Deguara's task now, and he's taking it on in a much less visible way than one of his best friends on the team, 2020 draft classmate Jordan Love.

Last week in his old stompin' grounds of Cincinnati, where Deguara played college ball but sat out the preseason game due to his calf injury, he took about 10 teammates to the Skyline Chili near campus, as well as Graeter's Ice Cream, another favorite local haunt.

So while he's enjoying seeing his good friend and new starting quarterback take ownership of the team, he's relishing the opportunity to step forward himself, even if it's in the behind-the-scenes kind of way that matches his multi-faceted role in the offense.

"Jordan's my guy, man," Deguara said. "He definitely waited for his time to come, and it's here. There's going to be growing pains in every scenario, but he's done a great job of bouncing back after maybe days where he thought he might not have had a great practice. He's been right back at it the next day, firing away, talking to the team, being a leader.

"There's so much more unknown going into the season compared to the last years. It's a very exciting time, just being able to be with these guys and see the change that's happening … as a culture, with the leaders stepping up, the different leaders that have been maybe in the background the last few years, myself included. So, it's awesome."

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