Green Bay Packers

The Packers’ Future At Tight End Is Here

Photo Credit: Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Many NFL experts believe tight ends have the longest learning curve in transitioning from college to pro football, except for quarterbacks. You’ve got to know it all from the run- and pass-blocking concepts, the passing-game concepts, and be able to transition between the two during audibles and checks at the line of scrimmage. The Green Bay Packers entered the year with fourth-year player Josiah Deguara as the veteran in their tight ends room, alongside three rookies, Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, and Ben Sims. Because of that, it’s no surprise that some ranked Green Bay’s tight ends unit as low as the 28th-best in the league entering the season.

While there have been some ups and downs throughout the year, Musgrave, Kraft, and Sims have all shown flashes and are primed to make tight end a position of strength for the Packers. Early in the year, Musgrave showed his flashes in the passing game and impressed coaches with his toughness. Matt LaFleur described him as “one tough sucker” for his ability to come back from an ankle injury earlier this year. Since then, Musgrave has been sidelined and put on IR after an unfortunate lacerated kidney. Regardless, his explosiveness and toughness have ingratiated him to the fanbase and coaching staff.

Since Musgrave’s injury, the Packers have relied more on fellow rookies Kraft and Sims. Both have had some successes in recent weeks. Against the Detroit Lions, Kraft had a great block-and-release play, initially blocking Aidan Hutchinson and then releasing out for an easy lay-up touch throw by Jordan Love for six points.

Last week against the Chiefs, Sims had a similar play on a run-pass-option look for Love, where he pulled it to opt for a favorable pass to Sims.

The benefit of having multiple young players in one position is that they all get competitive practice reps. “Just my confidence,” Kraft said when a reporter asked Kraft about his progression from Week 1 to today, “Just the chance to get to rep something over and over and over again and know the rules that apply to the play builds confidence and ability to execute.”

It has also been evident on the field that Kraft has grown. Against the Chicago Bears to open the season, Kraft had a few snaps and missed some key blocks in the running game, such as the play below:

Kraft’s missed tackle occurred because of a confused assignment. Compare that to a recent play of Kraft’s against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he motions across to pick up a defensive lineman and opens up a hole for A.J. Dillon to pick up a solid run gain.

Compared to Kraft and Musgrave, Sims’ game has been underappreciated. He’s a blocking specialist, so many fans may miss his contributions. Even during preseason (when Sims was on the Vikings), Sims (No. 81) displayed blocking prowess:

Blocking was undoubtedly what made the Packers interested in him. Sims was even a top-30 visit for the Packers in the pre-draft evaluation process. He also showed solid hands this past week, catching his first touchdown pass. “Growing up, you always wish to play in the NFL, and you always wish to play in the mecca of pro football,” Sims said, describing the experience. “Today, I got to do that, and I got to score my first touchdown and got to Lambeau Leap. So my heart is full.”

The most exciting part might be that each tight end has had success. Musgrave has shown the ability to be a flex tight end and a weapon in the passing game. Kraft has been productive in the passing game and has improved his run blocking enough to be dangerous in the run and pass offense as a true hybrid tight end. Sims has been primarily a contributor as an inline blocking tight end, but he also has some points of his own to show. Ultimately, each tight end has shown that their skill set will complement each other’s long-term. And given that they’re all on the same rookie contract, they can continue to push each other. That competition should help them continue to develop quicker, which will be exciting to watch for any Packer fan in years to come.

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