Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Keeping Tabs on the TEs: DJ Williams emerges as viable H-back

Finley had a big first half, but was limited to no
catches in the final two quarters. (image via)
Maybe it's because I played the position throughout high school, and then again in interhall football , but I love tight ends. The perfect combination of strength and speed, they can do it all. So with the Packers now carrying an unprecedented 5 TEs on their roster, I'm paying attention. What follows is the first in a series of weekly assessments focusing on how Green Bay utilizes its plethora of TEs.

Jermicahel Finley - Finley started off the 2011 season hot. He caught 3 passes for 53 yards in the first half alone. The Packers used him in-line, from the slot, and split out wide, and it certainly looked like he was going to be a central part of the offensive attack.

But with Packers offense essentially off the field for the 3rd quarter and out of attack mode in the 4th, Finley's receiving production went static.

Nonetheless, I thought he played well in other areas of the game, too. I unfortunately don't have the technological capabilities of some more advanced blogs, so I wasn't able to DVR the game, but I do remember him making some nice blocks. Not bone-crushing pancakes, but plays where he utilized good positioning to do just enough. And that's really all they're expecting from him. Watch Starks' 17-yard TD run for an example:

It may not seem like much, but Finley's impedance of Saint's DE Jeff Charleston is probably the difference between an 8 yard gain and a touchdown. 

All in all, it was a solid showing by Finley in his first regular season action since going down with an injury in Week 5 of 2010. He didn't necessarily "redefine" the position, but there's no reason to doubt that he will be an integral part of the Packers' passing attack throughout the year, and one of the most productive tight ends in the league.

Andrew Quarless- Quarless won't show up in the box score. He was an option on a handful of pass plays, but he didn't even receive a single target. I do expect this to change in the future though; he's just too much of an athlete not to factor in somehow. And the thought of pairing him and Finley together presents the type of match-up nightmares most defensive coordinators would probably like to avoid.

Again, while I'm not going to be able to go back and watch every play, I do remember being content with Quarless' blocking. This is something he really looked good at during the preseason, and I think it's carried over. I'll make no hesitations in saying that he is the clear-cut, second best blocking TE after Crabtree.

I did notice Quarless make some plays on special teams, especially a key block that helped spring Randall Cobb for his 108 yard kick-off return. Take a peek, particularly focusing on :45.

Quarless definitely wasn't a star on Thursday night, but he was a pretty solid contributor as both a blocker and special teamer. I think it's only a matter of time before he adds that third phase, receiving, to his game.

Tom Crabtree- This was an unusual game for Crabtree. He finished with 1 catch for 4 yards, his only target of the game. Certainly those numbers aren't anything out of the ordinary for the mostly-used-as-a-blocker Crabtree, but the fact that he made this catch after lining up split-out was a little peculiar. Just part of McCarthy's complex offensive scheme, I guess,

Even odder, though, was Crabtree's poor play on special teams. Specifically I'm referring to the fact that he was a complete non-factor on Darren Sproles' second quarter punt return for a touchdown. Take a look for yourself:

Crabtree shouldn't be held as the chief party culpable for this disgrace. That would be Pat Lee and Brad Jones (who completely biffs it). Nonetheless, he was completely taken out of the equation, and was not in a position to make a play when the first line of defense proved incompetent. Honestly, start watching at about :36; he was more or less completely man-handled, unable to disengage for an entire 3 seconds. And by that time, well it was obviously too late.

Crabtree will never be a primary threat in the passing game, so he needs to make his money as a blocker and special teamer. He could definitely use a little personal redemption in that latter category.

DJ Williams- The trajectory of DJ Williams' short career thus far has made for compelling stuff. He was one of the media darlings during the first couple weeks of camp, but leveled off and even began to start dipping as the preseason winded down. Some were even speculating that there wasn't room for him on the team. Not only did he survive cuts, but he was on the Packers opening night 46 man roster, and even played a somewhat substantial role as an H-back.

In order to keep 5 TEs, the Packers made room by releasing perennially underachieving FB Quinn Johnson. The move was made easier by the reasoning that both DJ Williams and Ryan Taylor could serve as competent depth at the position behind starter John Kuhn. Well that's exactly the capacity Williams was used in against the Saints, as a kind of TE-FB hybrid. He didn't play a ton, and certainly wasn't targeted for any passes, but he also didn't do anything glaringly wrong. Which is a decent start for a 5th round draft choice.

Williams needs to work on special teams, as I thought he looked a little lost and averse to contact at times. Even so, the fact that he got some snaps with the big boys on offense is a very positive sign for him. If he's been tabbed as step-in for Kuhn, I think it's very likely that he's kept active for most games.

Ryan Taylor- Taylor was not active against the Saints. However, his forte has been said to be special teams, and with how poor the unit looked at times on Thursday, I think he'll get an extra long look in practice this week in the lead-up to the Panthers game. If he is activated for Sunday's game, his ability in that area will be the reason why.


  1. Crabtree's lone catch was (by the way) a pretty good catch. I also don't have DVR capabilities but I believe he was falling down and the pass was behind him. I would just like to point out once again that I think Crabtree's value is much more than just a blocking TE. He runs his routes well and always seems to make a soft catch with his hands rather than his chest (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEk0qUH9LJ0 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW8RhX2hLOg). Also looks like a hold on that play although a pretty good one, I agree he still needs to be able to do something about it, he is supposed to be a physical beast. Another note: Tim Mathsay sure looks fast out there, nearly keeping pace with Sproles for about 20 yards. Why does Madden (the video game) always make punters/kickers so slow?

  2. I'm not bashing TC, but let's face the facts here. Even if he's a good receiver, he's still only the 4th best receiving TE on the roster, AT BEST. His bread and butter is blocking and ST, with his receiving being a nice perk. But if he can't do the first, then his value drops off immensely.

  3. Here's a comment - why are Packer fans the most classless feebs in the NFL? I mean there have been plenty of other great teams over the years but none more elitist or faggity than your Packer fans. I guess it just reflects on the entire shitty state you all live in.

    Don't you have somewhere to drink and drive over there in Cheeseland? I think that's your national past-time over there. Well it's either that or the usual Wisconsin hobbies of fucking cows. LOL

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