Jermichael Finley: Biggest loss for Packers


Replacing tight end Jermichael Finley may be the biggest challenge for Packers management. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

The Green Bay Packers have been ravaged by injury all year coming into this previous Sunday’s contest with the Cleveland Browns.

They had already lost starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga and starting running back DuJuan Harris to knee injuries prior to even playing any regular season games. Casey Hayward has yet to even see the field this season due to a nagging hamstring injury – and then there are the most recent stretch of injuries afforded to Green Bay: Clay Matthews with a broken thumb; Nick Perry with a foot injury; Randall Cobb with a fractured fibula; and James Jones with a PCL sprain.

All those players are key components to the core of the team. This team has displayed impeccable resiliency to continue playing at a high level despite the injuries. But the injury to Jermichael Finley, I believe, is the one that the Packers could least afford, especially at this point of the season.

The offense on Sunday still pushed their way past another 100-yard effort on the ground. Aaron Rodgers was masterful in the air with three touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson, Finley, and Jarrett Boykin.

Jordy Nelson caught a 1-yard pass for a touchdown against Cleveland Browns Sunday, but he, and all the other Packers receivers, will have to step up their play to help make up for the loss of Jermichael Finley. Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports photograph

However, with all that said, Sunday’s unfortunate injury to another key piece of the offense has to have been its most damaging. Jermichael Finley has endured his share of criticism, but he was mounting a great season for the Packers. His injury hurts most because of the versatility he brings to Green Bay’s aerial attack. A great, physical athlete like Finley, can line up in the slot creating nightmare matchups for opposing defenders.

Take a look at Finley’s skill set: fluid movement like a receiver at 6-5, 247 pounds, where he runs routes like a slot receiver. Finley has had his share of dropped passes like any other offensive weapon, but I think he has great pass catching abilities for a tight end. He is also willing to run his routes in traffic because of his ability to withstand a big hit most of the time.

He possesses a physical toughness that make him extremely difficult to bring down. Some of which was highlighted by his 10-yard scoring effort against the Browns this past Sunday when he muscled his way past four defenders to the end zone.

He has speed that most men his size will never have. An athlete like Finley can give defensive coordinators headaches to game plan around. That was something the Packers were relying upon already without James Jones for an undetermined amount of time and Randall Cobb for six to eight weeks.

His significant injury, as most Packers’ fans and players know it to be already, leaves Green Bay really with only Jordy Nelson to continue to be the most reliable and consistent receiver in their offensive arsenal. Jarrett Boykin had a great game on Sunday, don’t get me wrong, but is he ready for such a workload week-in and week-out? Is Myles White ready to step in and fill shoes temporarily for such household names? There is also newly-signed Chris Harper, but how long will it take him to learn the playbook?

Then you look at Green Bay’s other tight ends on roster.

Andrew Quarless is the next man up with the loss of Jermichael Finley. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Next in line would be Andrew Quarless who really hasn’t lived up to any expectations that the Packers were hoping for. There is Brandon Bostick who has that basketball to football background a lot of new age tight ends are bringing these days, but he is unproven as well. Special teamer Ryan Taylor has as I just said been mainly a special teams player. Jake Stoneburner was just signed from the practice squad, and is a rookie.

Do you put such high expectations in his hands?

There are a lot of questions swirling in the air about Green Bay’s next step going forward with such a great number of potentially lost players. Maybe Ted Thompson looks to free agency for a tight end, but my guess is that he stays in-house. Maybe he looks into potentially trading for one that might be on the market. Whatever his choice, I can honestly say one thing …  Jermichael Finley was a HUGE loss on many levels.

We just have to wish him the best recovery going forward.