The Green Bay Packers are now down two tight ends after as many games this season. Luckily for them, they have enough depth to survive this exact scenario.
Jace Sternberger was heading into his third season in Green Bay. He was a third-round pick in 2019 and missed the first two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was open about it on social media, saying he made a mistake with prescription drugs and alcohol. The team will try to keep the 25-year-old tight end around, but that might not be possible.
Green Bay also lost second-year tight end Josiah Deguara in their Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints. At the beginning of the third quarter, he suffered a concussion and was sidelined for the rest of the game and Monday night’s victory over the Detroit Lions. He will probably be back for Sunday night’s contest against the San Francisco 49ers but still might be limited. He’ll likely fill out the roster as the Pack’s fourth tight end.
Week 1 was obviously a disaster. But after seeing a better version of how the Packers’ offense will work with their current tight ends, there isn’t anything to panic about when it comes to talent and production.
Tight End Stats
Robert Tonyan was a bright spot for the Packers’ offense on Monday night. He caught everything Aaron Rodgers threw at him. He was 3-for-3 for 52 yards and a touchdown. But against the Saints, he only had two catches for eight yards and four targets. It felt like Big Bob had over 100 yards on Monday. Each one of his plays was important to the team’s win, and his continued success only adds to Green Bay’s challenge of re-signing him next year.
Marcedes Lewis didn’t have a catch against the Lions, but he did come up with a big play against the Saints in Week 1. He had one reception for 19 yards and led the team in yards after catch. It shows you how bad they were against New Orleans. Lewis will be more of a blocking tight end the entire season, but he will be good for a few red zone touchdowns again. He was the most active tight end on the field against the Lions.
Dominique Dafney is having another solid season for the Packers. He only had two receptions for 26 yards last year, but he impressed the coaches enough to stay with the team. With Sternberger and Deguara out, Dafney played 29 out of 65 snaps against the Lions. He didn’t have a catch, but when you see the production that Rodgers and Jones got to have, you can’t say he did a bad job blocking. And he’s starting to get noticed.
Next Man Up
Dafney has also been impressive on special teams. It isn’t talked about a lot, but anyone who can improve Green Bay’s special teams should be rewarded.
Going into the season, the Packers obviously have an amazing starting tight end in Tonyan. If he stays healthy, he should have another Pro Bowl-worthy year and be one of the top free agents if Green Bay doesn’t re-sign him during the season. They probably don’t have the cap space, but you know they will try.
After Tonyan, you have Lewis. He is mostly there for blocking, but the 37-year-old can play. Once Deguara is healthy, it will be really fun to see how he and Dafney compete for snaps. Both have a similar role right now, but they will also be auditioning for next season. If Tonyan doesn’t re-sign, Green Bay will need a new tight end to step up and attempt and play at the same level. It’s a perfect scenario for the Packers right now. You have two players in their second year who will get plenty of snaps and learn from players like Tonyan and Lewis. The hope is that they can stay healthy. Deguara missed a lot of last year due to injury and now has a concussion.
Green Bay can hopefully keep four tight ends on the roster all year, but they did just find against the Lions with three. The only other player they have on the roster is Bronson Kaufusi. He was originally drafted in the third round of the 2016 draft by the Baltimore Ravens. He has battled injuries and bounced around a bit before landing with the team’s practice squad. Hopefully they won’t need him, but you never know.
And while it’s not ideal to lose two tight ends already this early in the season, the Packers clearly have enough depth. Tonyan is elite, Lewis a solid veteran, and we get to see a position battle the rest of the year with Deguara and Dafney. For the time being, Packers fans should feel good about their tight end situation. For now, keep an eye on the two tight ends, especially Dafney. He could easily become the next Tonyan.