2017 Packers Previews: TEs Get a Big Makeover

Mike McCarthy played tight end in college. He once was a driving force behind keeping five tight ends on the 53 man roster. He raved this offseason about the future of the NFL being “big people running down the middle of the field.”

Now, he finally has the tight end group of his dreams.

Martellus Bennett is the much-desired big man running down the middle of the field. Lance Kendricks offers athleticism and blocking. Richard Rodgers catches everything you throw to him, even if he doesn’t run anywhere with it afterwards.

It’s the best tight end lineup since 2012 and it could change the Packers’ offense in big ways.

Veteran to watch: Richard Rodgers

All eyes will be on Martellus Bennett this year, but Richard Rodgers has plenty of question marks too. Will the Packers have any use their now-former starting tight end? Will they use three tight end groups? Will he ever see the field? Is Rodgers in danger of losing his roster spot? All of these questions are valid, and all could be answered with a yes depending on a variety of factors.

For his part, Rodgers has always been the good soldier. He’s added and lost weight depending on what the Packers ask of him, and he’s always been a willing (if not able) blocker. And when we said Rodgers catches everything you throw to him, that wasn’t an exaggeration: his career catch percentage is better than Jordy Nelson’s, albeit on a lot fewer targets.

Notable newcomer: Martellus Bennett

Of course it’s Bennett, who’s developed some kind of pre-training camp mythical status due to his always interesting off the field exploits.

Bennett will be an extraordinarily interesting player to watch this season. Although last year he was as much of a field stretcher as he’s ever been, that’s really not his game. Bennett is more likely to physically overwhelm opponents in medium length routes, especially in the red zone. Fans expecting the second coming of Jermichael Finley may be in for a surprise.

That’s not to say he’s not going to be a huge part of the offense. He should be. The real question, though, is exactly how he’ll be used.

Biggest question: How will the Packers use their tight ends this year?

See? I told you that was the real question.

Yes, the Packers have some new tight ends this year and yes, they’re probably better than any group the Packers have had in some time. But it still is very unclear how the Packers will deploy their new plus-sized pass catchers.

It’s been well documented that the Packers are not big fans of using multiple tight ends. That should change this year, but how it changes is an important part of that equation. There were times last year that the Packers did use multiple tight ends to great effect, and if that’s any sort of indication as to what could happen this year, opposing defenses could be in trouble.

Key number: 6

The famous Rodgers-to-Rodgers Hail Mary in Detroit was 61 yards, which still makes up 6% of Richard Rodgers’ career receiving yards.