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Monday, October 21, 2013
Assessing the options at tight end

By Rob Demovsky

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Behind Jermichael Finley, the Green Bay Packers have four other tight ends on their roster.

But none of them comes close to matching the skill set that the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Finley possesses.

Finley has 25 catches (third on the team) for 300 yards (fourth on the team) and three touchdowns (second on the team).

With Finley's future in doubt after the neck injury he sustained in Sunday's 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns, the Packers will likely have to change how they use their tight ends.

While they may have tight ends who are better blockers than Finley, they don't have one with the natural athleticism and skill to step into his role as a receiver and can cause matchup problems for opposing defenses.

“It's important to define roles for those guys and make sure that we have a clear understanding,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “You never want to put too much on a young guy's plate.”

With that in mind, here's a look at the other four tight ends on the roster:

Quarless
Andrew Quarless: In terms of size, the 6-4, 252-pound fourth-year pro most resembles Finley.

He almost certainly will take over as the starter.

“That's not even something I really want to think about it,” Quarless said on Sunday. “Playing time is irrelevant right now.”

Quarless is a better blocker than Finley but not as polished or skilled as a receiver. He has four catches for 28 yards this season.

However, he has the most experience even though he missed the entire 2012 season while recovering from his 2011 knee injury. Quarless might be better suited to play on the line of scrimmage rather than in the slot or split out wide -- where Finley combined to play nearly half of his snaps.

Bostick
Brandon Bostick: After spending last season on the practice squad, the former small-college receiver added weight and strength in the offseason and is viewed as a promising prospect at 6-3, 250.

But he has played only 11 snaps on offense all season, and eight of those came on Sunday against the Browns.

The Packers probably won't ask Bostick to do a lot of in-line blocking, but they might try to take advantage of his background as a receiver and perhaps use him on the seam routes that Finley often ran. He comes closest to rivaling Finley in the athleticism department, but he also might be the most raw of the tight ends.

“I feel confident that whatever we're asking him to do, he'll do well,” tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said last week. “He has made some strides from training camp until now in his run blocking. He's made strides in taking care of his body and holding weight and just being more of a presence out there. To me, he looks a little bit faster than he did last year, when he was lighter, and he looks really solid.”

Taylor
Ryan Taylor: The third-year pro has been almost exclusively a special teams player and a situational blocker.

He's not a strong candidate to pick up much of Finley's production in the passing game.

His status for Sunday's game at the Minnesota Vikings remains uncertain. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last Wednesday after he was injured on Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens.

“Ryan Taylor is pushing, coming back strong,” McCarthy said. “So we'll see what he gives us potentially this week.”

Jake Stoneburner: The undrafted rookie from Ohio State was promoted last week from the practice squad and played mostly on special teams against the Browns.

He saw only two snaps on offense.

He looked like a strong candidate to make the roster coming out of training camp until he fumbled during a preseason game.

The 6-3, 249-pounder also has a background as a college receiver before converting to tight end.

“He's a good route runner,” Fontenot said. “He's a smart kid. He knows leverages and coverages. He works at his game, and he's going to do whatever's asked of him. He's got good speed. He can run block. He can pass protect. He's pretty well-rounded.”