In each of Matt LaFleur’s first three seasons as head coach of the Green Bay Packers, the team has kept four tight ends on their initial 53-man roster. However, as we look ahead to training camp and the preseason, it would appear that there are five players at the tight end position who could be deserving of a roster spot.
Now, just because LaFleur hasn’t kept five tight ends in the past doesn’t mean that he will do the same this year. But with that, there are only so many snaps to go around on offense, and in keeping five tight ends, that means another position is going to lose a roster spot as a result.
At some point this season, Robert Tonyan will return, and according to Bill Huber of Sports Illustratedboth Tonyan and the Packers are “confident” that he could be ready for the start of the regular season.
But regardless of when he returns, he will account for a roster spot. And so will Marcedes Lewis, who has been a leader on this team and is still one of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL.
Josiah Deguara has had his ups and downs, but as I wrote for Cheesehead TV, it can often take tight ends two or three years to really hit thier stride in the NFL, given how difficult the all-encompassing position can be.
As an H-back, Deguara also fills a completely different role than Tonyan, who is a passing catching threat, and Lewis, the traditional Y-tight end–so I think it’s safe to say that you can expect Deguara on the final roster as well.
With Dominique Dafney and Tyler Davis is where things start to get interesting, however. While Dafney doesn’t leave a huge mark on the passing game, that’s not really what he’s asked to do either. His primary responsibility is as a blocker, where he finished 14th among all tight ends in PFFs pass-blocking grade last season, and Dafney also adds versatility, lining up all over the formation, including the backfield.
Meanwhile, Tyler Davis saw his role expand towards the end of last season, showcasing that he is a very willing and also effective blocker, ranking 17th in PFF’s run-blocking grade. We also saw a glimpse of his pass-catching potential against Baltimore when he caught a 22-yard pass down the seam with Aaron Rodgers under pressure and defenders all around him.
“TD — Tyler Davis — we picked up early in the year, and as his opportunities grew not only in the games but in practice, think we really have something there,” said Brian Gutekunst following the NFL Draft. “So I’m excited about that.”
Depending on how the summer unfolds, if the Packers do end up keeping only four tight ends, then LaFleur and Co. could face a very difficult decision when it comes to choosing between Dafney and Davis.
With that said, if special teams is truly going to be more of an emphasis this season — which it should be — then rotering five tight ends is a very real possibility as both Dafney and Davis have the potential to become core special teams players under the tutelage of Rich Bisaccia.
In the end, training camp and the preseason will be the deciding factors, and who knows, maybe these decisions end up being quite easy based on what takes place on the field. But my guess is that won’t be the case, and if the Packers do decide to keep four tight ends as they have done in previous years under LaFleur, then a difficult decision is likely going to follow.