Green Bay Packers tight end Brandon Bostick grabs a pass during training camp practice on Aug. 6 at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
In the one year Brandon Bostick has spent on the Green Bay Packers’ roster, the college Division II receiver-turned-tight end has tried to take a little something from each of his teammates in the room.
He patterns himself after Jermichael Finley in route-running and receiving, follows the lead of D.J. Williams, Andrew Quarless and Matthew Mulligan in blocking, and knows that nobody does it better than Ryan Taylor on special teams.
In his second camp with the Packers, Bostick understands his role as a 6-foot-4, 260-pound blank sheet of paper with boundless athleticism and an insatiable desire to soak up any information tossed his way.
It’s why he split his offseason working out with Williams on the University of Arkansas campus and then living in Minneapolis for a month with Finley while the two took part in Larry Fitzgerald’s ProCamp after the Packers’ offseason program wrapped.
Three weeks into training camp, the time and energy he’s invested has built equity. Physically, he’s a different player than he was a year ago, but the subtle changes in his game are what his teammates are noticing the most.
Some of those alterations were on display in the Packers’ 19-7 win over St. Louis on Saturday when Bostick caught three passes for 29 yards. A year ago, he caught three passes for 28 yards in the entire preseason.
“Honestly, I can tell the difference from last year and the improvement to his game this year,” said second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin, Bostick’s roommate in Green Bay. “I said he kind of looked like J-Mike (Finley) out there when he was catching all those passes against the Rams. He laughed when I told him that.”
It’s all been by design for Bostick, who went largely unnoticed by most scouts until former Packers personnel man John Dorsey took a liking to him after he attended the team’s rookie orientation on tryout.
The Packers didn’t bite at first, but signed him later that month. He never cracked the 53-man roster, but spent the entire season learning his new position on the practice squad and adjusting to an increased level of play.
Unlike at Newberry College in South Carolina, where he dominated with his size and had enough athleticism to dabble on the basketball team, he had to learn new ways to beat defenders to make plays in the NFL.
On more than one occasion, Bostick and Williams talked about the importance of being well-rounded at the position rather than focusing on specifics like route-running. After the season, the two trained together at Williams’ alma mater, Arkansas, to fine-tune their blocking technique and weight train.
After returning for the Packers’ offseason program, Bostick took Finley up on an open invitation to train with him in Minnesota in the month leading up to the preseason, working out at 8 a.m. each day before lifting at 4 p.m.
During that time, Bostick looked to model his game after the play-making tight end, who also added 10 pounds and carries a similar build at 6-5.
“He’s a physical specimen at tight end. He’s a big guy, strong guy, fast guy — he can do it all and I think this year is going to be a big year for him,” said Bostick, who bumped from 250 to 260 this offseason. “When I was with Jermichael, we worked on route-running, blocking and getting stronger. I put all that stuff together and tried to be the best player I can be every time we go out there.”
This year, Williams already has noticed Bostick asking more questions in the meeting rooms and catching more balls in practice. Cosmetically, he traded in his nondescript No. 48 jersey for a number more befitting of an NFL tight end (86).
Bostick admittedly remains a work in progress as a blocker, but he’s added his name to this year’s 53-man roster conversation after making good on the extra work afforded to him by recent injuries to both Quarless (quad) and Taylor (knee).
Neither played Saturday, allowing Bostick to see 33 snaps against the Rams (up from 18 in the team’s first preseason game against Arizona) en route to making his biggest play in the second quarter when he hauled in a 13-yard pass from Graham Harrell on third-and-8 off a quick hitch in triple coverage in the middle of the field.
“He’s a guy who has a ton of athletic ability. Stuff you can’t teach,” said second-year quarterback B.J. Coleman, who spent last season on the practice squad with Bostick. “Now that he’s kind of put that philosophy and scheme with his ability, he’s really starting to show up. I’m impressed with Brandon and I think he would be the first one to tell you that he’s a completely different player from where he was last year to this year.”
The Packers have a stacked tight end group, an embarrassment of riches as position coach Jerry Fontenot often acknowledges when speaking of the seven-man room.
No two players are alike, making the team’s decisions at the position as difficult as ever with final cuts due in a little less than two weeks.
Bostick remains the most intriguing of all the candidates, given the league’s penchant to unearth athletic tight ends with unique playing backgrounds. If the Packers were to give up on his upside and ability now, it could come back to haunt them.
It also puts a player like Williams in the unique position of defending his roster spot against the very same player he helped develop. But the third-year tight end wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think what it comes down to it is you need to be a good teammate. That’s the key part about it,” Williams said. “If it calls of me giving good advice and that guy getting the job over me, then he deserved it. If it’s vice versa, then I deserve it. At the same time at the end of the day, we’re all going to help each other and be happy for each other.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.