Time to step up: Andrew Quarless


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson say it every offseason: It is not the rookies who will make the difference for the Green Bay Packers but rather the returning players.

With that in mind, we continue our look at some returning players who need to take their game to another level in 2014.

Next up, it's tight end Andrew Quarless.

Why he has to step up: Quarless did not exactly convince the Packers that he could be as productive as Jermichael Finley was in the 10 starts he made after Finley's season-ending (and possibly career-ending) neck injury. Quarless averaged just 9.8 yards per catch last season on 32 receptions compared with Finley's 12.5-yard career average. Quarless did show signs of some play-making ability with a pair of six-catch, 66-yard, and one-touchdown games in consecutive weeks last season against Atlanta and Dallas. Quarless' blocking also was shaky at times, prompting tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot to call him out publicly last season.

What he needs to do: Quarless needs to become more consistent. The game before his first six-catch game last season against the Falcons, he caught just one pass for 7 yards against Detroit. The game after his second six-catch game, he caught just one pass for 19 yards against Pittsburgh.

Outlook: The Packers aren't convinced Quarless is their starter of the future, which is why they gave him only a two-year, $3 million contract -- hardly starter's money -- in free agency this offseason. Quarless did not help himself this spring by missing all of the offseason practices with an undisclosed injury. It's uncertain whether it was related to the 2011 knee injury that kept him out for the entire 2012 season. Whatever the reason, Quarless may have watched rookie Richard Rodgers take control of the starting job in his absence. The third-round pick from California had perhaps the most impressive offseason among the recent draft picks.

Quotable: "The things that Andrew and I talked about immediately after the season were, No. 1, we need to finish better, and No. 2, we need to get better with our fundamentals as far as our footwork in the run game and our pad level," Fontenot said. "In the pass game, we need to make a bigger impact. We have to run routes more efficiently. I think that the time that Andrew spent off the field rehabbing and getting his knee back to health cost him -- not unlike anyone else in that position. If you spend two seasons off the field, it's going to have an effect. All of that being said, I see a guy who has a lot more in the tank and can give a lot more to this team. I'm excited about having Drew in our room. He's not afraid of hard work, and he understands that it's going to take every ounce of energy that he has in order to get to the point where he can contribute in the way that I think that he can."

Previous installments

Part one: Morgan Burnett

Part two: Nick Perry

Part three: Datone Jones

Part four: Jerel Worthy

Part five: Brad Jones

Part six: Davon House

Part seven: B.J. Raji