Production A Start For Humphrey


It was the kind of play the Packers have always felt tight end Tory Humphrey is capable of making, and why Humphrey has been given every chance to get past his injury troubles over the past three years and get on the field.

Last Sunday, the Packers were trailing Atlanta 17-10 in the fourth quarter and cornerback Tramon Williams had just intercepted a Falcons pass in the end zone, shifting the momentum Green Bay's way. On first down from the 20-yard line, Humphrey and fellow tight end Donald Lee were lined up side by side and went out into pass routes at the snap.

While Lee cut across the field, Humphrey went into a dead sprint up the seam, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit him in stride for a 37-yard catch-and-run that jump-started the Packers' game-tying touchdown drive.

It was just one play, but it put everything on display that the Packers have been waiting for Humphrey to show in a game - the deceptive speed for a tight end, the good route-runner with strong hands, and the ability to stretch the middle of the field.

"His confidence catching the football has improved, and he's using his speed better in the pass game," tight ends coach Ben McAdoo said. "That's something that we've always talked about. We need to play fast with urgency, and when he caught the vertical route (Sunday), he did a nice job of snapping his head back, looking for the ball, but maintaining his speed and not slowing down."

Humphrey didn't slow down the rest of the game, catching three more passes in the fourth quarter to give him four catches for 67 yards, a career day for the third-year pro.

He had recorded a similarly impressive 35-yard catch-and-run on the first snap of the preseason game at Denver back on Aug. 22, but shortly thereafter Humphrey hurt his knee and had been playing at less than full strength during the first month of the regular season.

Having been sidelined for seven games in 2006 with a hamstring injury and all of last year with a broken ankle, and then battling that knee injury early this season, Humphrey can only hope last Sunday comes to define his breakout game, not just another flash of potential.

"It felt good, but it was kind of bittersweet," Humphrey said. "We lost the game, but I hope to build on that next game and get some wins."

First and foremost, for Humphrey to build on it, he needs to stay healthy. He says he's close to 100 percent now with the knee issue, while the ankle from last year is no longer a factor.

Second, he has to continue to be productive as a run-blocker to get on the field more. Humphrey had a holding penalty against the Falcons that helped kill a promising drive, but other than that one lapse in technique, McAdoo said he was physical at the line of scrimmage.

Third, he must continue to be reliable in pass protection, which is easier said than done in the Packers' scheme because the tight ends shift between blocking at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield, depending on the formation and play call.

But where Humphrey will show his skills the most is in the passing game, and the Packers employed more multiple tight end sets against the Falcons than they had much of the season, so that may have contributed to Humphrey seeing the ball more. On the big 37-yard play, Humphrey didn't think his speed caught the Falcons off-guard as much as the personnel and formation, and McAdoo gave him credit for running a great route, one the tight ends practice from Day 1 of the offseason program.

"It was just a go route," Humphrey said. "The safeties, I think they were worried about Donald (Lee) getting down the field, and they cut me loose I guess. I was wide open and made the play. It was a big momentum boost for the team."

Humphrey's day, combined with the four catches for 25 yards from Lee on Sunday, could provide some momentum for the entire offense as well. Coming into Week 5, Lee and Humphrey had combined for 12 receptions worth 91 yards this season. They posted a collective eight catches for 92 yards in just one game, and it's not just a coincidence that the Packers topped 400 yards of total offense last Sunday for the second time in 2008.

"The more guys are involved, the more the defense has to worry about," Humphrey said. "They might key on certain guys, or double-team a guy or one of the receivers, and leave one of the tight ends open, or leave the back open out in the flat. It opens up a lot of good things for us."

{sportsad300}The game plans will dictate how that goes the rest of the way, and there's no way of guaranteeing what those game plans will feature. For instance, depending on matchups and schemes, there are always those games where Green Bay's tight ends are called on to help protect the passer more than catch passes.

But while Lee showed last season, with career bests of 48 catches, 575 yards and six touchdowns, that he's ready whenever his number is called, last Sunday proved Humphrey can be too.

"By coverages and the way things shake out sometimes, it may not seem or feel like we're a part of the pass game, but that's certainly not the case," McAdoo said of his tight end group. "(Sunday) we just had more opportunities based on the coverages called and the plays called at certain times.

"It's obviously a step in the right direction. I'm excited for Tory and excited for the future he has. We've been sticking with him because of his ability. He's a smart player, and he's a high-character guy. We just need to keep getting better every day."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content