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Tyler Davis feels he's only 'scratching the surface' at tight end

Packers’ third-year tight end shares many commonalities with Robert Tonyan

TE Tyler Davis
TE Tyler Davis

GREEN BAY – Tyler Davis' head was spinning in the days after he signed with the Packers off the Indianapolis Colts' practice squad last September.

The 25-year-old tight end was pulling 15-hour days at Lambeau Field, sometimes staying as late as 9 p.m., in an effort to pick up his new playbook.

Time was of the essence. Signed on a Tuesday, Green Bay had Week 4 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field that Sunday, a game Davis ultimately played in.

That first week was a tornado of activity but it also taught Davis a lot about the makeup of the Packers' locker room, as everyone from Marcedes Lewis to quarterback Aaron Rodgers offered a helping hand to the young tight end in those early days.

"My first day here, I was in the C.R.I.C. and Aaron just walked by and he said, 'If you need any help, let me know,'" said Davis, referring to the team's conditioning, rehab and instruction center.  "It really speaks to the culture that is in this locker room and the players that are on this team. It's just a special place to be."

Despite the late arrival, the 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end caught up quickly and played a combined 353 snaps on offense and special teams during 14 regular-season appearances.

In addition to his four catches for 35 yards, Davis recorded five coverage tackles with the fifth-most snaps (232) among Green Bay's special teams players.

With Lewis not recurrently in Green Bay and veteran Robert Tonyan working in the rehab group, Davis was working with the first-team offense during last week's organized team activities.

In his brief time in a Packers' uniform, Davis already has drawn praise from both Head Coach Matt LaFleur and new special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

"He certainly made his mark on special teams and he's a guy that I know Rich was really excited about when we hired Rich, just what he can bring," LaFleur said. "He's a guy that's going to give you great effort each and every snap and he can really run."

Offensively, Davis is still new to the tight end position. He started his college career as a backup quarterback at UConn before the staff asked him if he'd be open to playing a new position.

The Huskies' coaching staff saw his natural athleticism and wanted to find a way to get Davis on the field. The first idea was to move him to outside linebacker, which Davis was leery about.

The follow-up question was one that would change the entire course of his football career: "How does tight end sound?"

"I said, 'Sounds good,'" Davis said. "And it kind of just went from there.

Davis caught 25 passes for 263 yards during his first two seasons before becoming a full-fledged starter in 2018. His offensive coordinator that year was John Dunn, whom Davis has since been reunited with in Green Bay.

Dunn was brought in as a senior analyst last year before being promoted to tight ends coach in February after Justin Outten left to become the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator.

Needless to say, Davis and Dunn have enjoyed catching up this spring.

"Getting to see him go through college and then transition to a pro football player, how he goes about his business, has been really cool," said Dunn of Davis. "He took it serious and he did a very nice job in college, but it is cool to watch him grow as he's going through life as a professional athlete."

In the classroom, Davis has learned a lot during his short time with Lewis and Tonyan. While the 38-year-old Lewis has been wealth of knowledge, Tonyan has been just as helpful as someone who shares a comparable story to Davis.

Recruited to Indiana State as a quarterback, Tonyan transitioned to receiver midway through his college career before making a switch to tight end in the NFL. In 51 games with Green Bay, Tonyan has caught 84 passes for 967 yards with 15 touchdowns.

"We're pretty similar in the type of body type that this tight end position that me and Bobby play," Davis said. "I've got tons of clips of Bobby on my iPad that I watch every day. Just trying to emulate him and trying to be exactly like him is a big deal."

Davis turned out to be the next man up in many situations after Tonyan tore his anterior cruciate ligament last October in Arizona and could again be an option this season depending on when Tonyan is cleared for a return

When asked about the decision to not select a tight end during last month's NFL Draft, General Manager Brian Gutekunst talked about the overall depth in the room before adding that the Packers "might have something" in Davis.

After playing catch-up last fall, Davis is thrilled to take everything in at a more relaxed pace this spring. Barely six years into his position switch, Davis believes he still has plenty of room to grow at tight end with the best is yet to come.

"I feel like I'm scratching the surface," Davis said. "I feel like last year was definitely, I gained some momentum for myself toward the end of the year that definitely added some confidence for myself going into this past offseason to now. … I feel like I can turn into a pretty special player."

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