Packers training camp 90-man roster preview: Tight ends
Couple of groups in the NFL are as deep at tight end as the Green Bay Packers.
Regardless of enigma with 2 of the group’s current draft choices, the Packers will enter into the 2021 season with an enticing mix of skills at an essential position in Matt LaFleur’s offending plan.
Our training school lineup sneak peek rolls on at tight end:
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The Packers restored Lewis on another 1 year offer, guaranteeing the offense returns its main inline run-blocker for a minimum of another season. Lewis turned 37 in Might, however absolutely nothing about his 2020 season recommends he’s falling back in his function. In reality, Lewis was excellent as a blocker and more effective in the death video game (10 catches, 107 lawns, 3 goals). For most plays, Lewis operates more like a third offensive tackle. Matt LaFleur trusts him to consistently execute difficult blocks on edge rushers and second-level defenders, and more often than not, the veteran gets the job done, helping power the Packers run game. According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis had the fifth-best run-blocking grade among tight ends last season. Barring a severe drop-off during camp, Lewis will be back in his specific and important role again in 2021.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Tonyan created one of the most effective seasons by a tight end in Packers history in 2020. He caught 52 of 59 targets (88.1 percent), averaged 9.9 yards per target and scored 11 touchdowns, tying the team record by a tight end. Somehow, voters picked Evan Engram over him for the Pro Bowl. An increasingly confident player, Tonyan got open consistently and rarely missed a big-play opportunity. He’s slowly getting better as an inline blocker but must keep improving. His career arc suggests another step forward is not only possible but maybe inevitable. Tonyan has a receiver’s game in a tight end’s body, and he’s playing in the perfect scheme for a move tight end. More catches are possible in 2021. Touchdowns are impossible to predict year to year, but he’ll have plenty of scoring chances if the Packers offense remains whole. Repeating a good season can be difficult for a young player, but he has the potential to solidify his status as one of the NFL’s top 10 tight ends.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger (87) during the second day of organized team activities.
His NFL career is at a crossroads after a disappointing second season and a two-game suspension (violation of league’s substance abuse policy) to start 2021. A third-round pick in 2019, Sternberger has the athleticism to be a matchup issue, especially in this offense, but he needs to improve and mature in Year 3. He also needs to find a role in a deep position group. Despite the suspension, the Packers will give him plenty of chances because of his skillset and the expected timetable of development for young players at the tight end position. This should be the year everything starts to come together for Sternberger, who only played one full year at tight end at the college level. The talent needs to start showing this summer at camp.
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A promising start to his rookie season ended with an ACL injury in October. The Packers featured Deguara, a third-round pick in 2020, in a versatile role in Minnesota in Week 1, potentially providing a blueprint for how LaFleur will utilize him in Year 2, provided he’s healthy to start the season. Deguara doesn’t have ideal tight end size, but the Packers think he can play all over the field, including in the slot and in the backfield at fullback. He’s an easy mover in space, both as a receiver and blocker, offering schematic versatility and potential pre-snap deception. It’s easy to envision Deguara’s role, and how he can provide impact in the role. Opportunities mirroring what the 49ers do with Kyle Juszczyk are possible. He might need time to get his feet under him early in the season.
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Dafney, an undrafted free agent added to the practice squad in October, made the active roster and eventually played in five games to end the regular season, offering the Packers a versatile move tight end in the LaFleur offense. He is athletic in space and tough in the run game, and the Packers were impressed with how fast he picked up his role in the offense. Aaron Rodgers tossed him a touchdown pass during Week 17 in Chicago. Dafney played 68 snaps in the regular season and another 37 in the playoffs. He also helped on special teams. A chance to be a contributor is there, especially if Deguara is slow to return from his injury and Sternberger fails to take a step forward.
Green Bay Packers tight end Isaac Nauta (82) participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
Originally a seventh-round pick of the Lions, Nauta looks like a developmental player entering camp, potentially in the mold of another move tight end. He can play inline and hold up in the run game. Even dating back to college, his threat level in the death video game hasn’t been high. He lacks vertical speed, limiting his separation ability at the NFL level. Nauta could be an ideal practice squad candidate, which would give the Packers insurance against an injury. Nauta caught only 3 passes while with the Lions. The Packers signed him to the practice squad last December.
Green Bay Packers tight end Bronson Kaufusi (45) participates in organized team activities Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
Kaufusi is continuing the transition to offense after spending his first five NFL seasons playing along the defensive line. While inexperienced, his size (6-6, 270) could be an asset as an inline run-blocker. Kaufusi was originally a 3rd-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, however he started the transition to tight end while with the New York Jets last season. The Packers signed him in January, with hopes he can continue to make progress at a new position. At 285 pounds at the combine in 2016, Kaufusi finished the three-cone drill in 7.03 seconds, however now he’s dropped 15 pounds and could be even quicker. If he can put together a strong summer, stashing him on the practice squad and pushing more advancement could make a lot of sense.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.