Martellus Bennett can bring new dimension to Packers offense

Rob Reischel
Special to Packer Plus
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Green Bay — In 2015, when Richard Rodgers, Justin Perillo and Andrew Quarless were Green Bay’s primary tight ends, that group had a combined 103 passes thrown their way.

Last season, when Jared Cook, Rodgers and Perillo manned the position, they also saw a combined 103 targets.

Can you imagine what 2017 might bring?

The Green Bay Packers didn’t add just one high level tight end in free agency this past off-season. They added two in a pair of moves that defied everything you thought you knew about general manager Ted Thompson.

Martellus Bennett, one of the top tight ends in football, had 73 passes thrown in his direction while he was in New England last year. Lance Kendricks had a whopping 87 targets while playing for the Los Angeles Rams.

Together, this duo combined for 160 targets, 105 receptions and nine touchdowns. It will be tough for Bennett and Kendricks to match that type of production on a team where Jordy Nelson (152 targets), Davante Adams (121) and Randall Cobb (84) have dominated the football.

But the potential that Bennett and Kendricks give the Packers’ passing game has the entire organization giddy with excitement.

“I think what it does is it gives us some more flexibility to run two tight end sets,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Both guys can put their hand on the ground and go and block guys really well but also add that dimension in the passing game.”

Green Bay’s best offense of the Mike Holmgren-era came in 1996, when it ranked first in the NFL in points per game (28.5). That season, standout tight ends Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura were running wild, and no one was better at feeding them than Holmgren and quarterback Brett Favre.

Green Bay’s most potent offense of the Mike McCarthy-era came in 2011, when the Packers scored a franchise record 560 points and led the NFL at 35.0 points per game. That year, tight end Jermichael Finley was terrific with 55 receptions and eight touchdowns.

McCarthy has never had a group of tight ends like this, though. In addition to Bennett and Kendricks, veteran Richard Rodgers returns and the possibilities appear endless.

“It seems like we’re going to play a lot of two-tight ends,” Kendricks said. “I think that we, we’re very versatile in our own ways. I’m a little bit more shifty in and out of routes and stuff. I think we’ll make it work.”

Bennett figures to be the bell cow and should receive the lion’s share of the footballs from Rodgers. At 6-foot-6, 275 pounds, Bennett is one of the largest targets Rodgers has ever had.

“Well, he’s a little taller than Jermichael was,” Rodgers said. “But he wears his weight really well. I think he’s up near about 280. He looks like he’s about 260. He’s just a very well put-together player.”

And an extremely productive one.

Over the last five seasons, Bennett has averaged 63.6 receptions, 5.2 touchdowns and 728.2 yards per season. While Bennett is one of the more immense tight ends in the league, he also once ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds.

In addition, Bennett is a terrific blocker and a free spirit who figures to bring more excitement to Green Bay’s locker room than any player in quite some time.

“One thing you noticed on the very first interview when he came in, energy,” Packers offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said of Bennett. “Instant energy.

“And then when you turn the tape on, then you see a guy who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played from a play-style standpoint. Very physical, very tough. He plays with an attitude, and those are some of the things that to me jumped out about Marty. Outstanding.”

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Kendricks is coming off of his finest NFL season, as well.

After averaging 30.8 catches during his first five seasons, Kendricks erupted for 50 receptions in 2016. Kendricks, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 coming out of Wisconsin, can still split the seam and will provide another reliable option for Rodgers.

“Lance is versatile,” Packers tight ends coach Brian Angelichio said. “You know you see him in the past when he was with St. Louis, you see him playing in the backfield, you see him playing in-line, you see him splitting out. He kind of does a little bit of everything and takes pride in that. He’s kind of that guy. If you need something, he has the ability to fill those roles.”

Green Bay has lacked a difference maker at the tight end position since Finley suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury in October 2013. But the addition of Bennett and Kendricks figures to change all of that.

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“Yeah they kind of balance each other off,” Angelichio said. “They’ve both played a bunch of years in this league. Both different personalities, both have been successful, both have shown to be good teammates, both have shown that they like to work. It’s good, it’s a good mix obviously with both of them in the room, and both have been good teammates.”

Holdover Richard Rodgers has 108 receptions in his first three seasons (36.0 per year), highlighted by a 56-catch season in 2015. Rodgers doesn’t run well, though, and has averaged just 9.6 yards per reception. But not many NFL teams have a No. 3 tight end with the experience and productivity of Rodgers.

“Obviously I think he has really good hands,” Angelichio said of Rodgers. “He has an understanding of what Aaron wants, knows where he’s got to be and knows when he’s got to be there. His versatility with the offense and the adjustments that go with it — those are all things that help a team win. You never know when they’ll be needed.”



Name Ht. Wt. Age Exp. School

Martellus Bennett 6-6 275 30 10 Texas A&M

Lance Kendricks 6-3 250 29 7 Wisconsin

Richard Rodgers 6-4 257 25 4 California

Aaron Peck 6-2 239 22 R Fresno State

Beau Sandland 6-5 252 24 1 Montana State

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