Packers 4 Downs: More athleticism could be in store at tight end
Four observations the day after the Packers' 31-13 win over the New York Giants on Sunday:
Coach Matt LaFleur shook up the Packers’ playing rotation at tight end Sunday by activating four players at that position and cutting back on Jimmy Graham’s playing time. The tight ends caught only two passes total — Graham had a 16-yarder, and Marcedes Lewis a one-yard touchdown — but the dispersed playing time suggests LaFleur is looking to get more athletic at that position in the season’s stretch run. Rookie Jace Sternberger was on the active roster Sunday after being left inactive last week against San Francisco. Though he didn’t play a lot Sunday, he did get some snaps in two-tight-end sets, mostly in the second half. Second-year pro Robert Tonyan, in only his second game back since returning from a hip injury, played more and had one target. They’re the two most athletic tight ends on the roster at this point — Graham is 33 and Lewis 35. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sternberger’s and Tonyan’s playing time increase in the final month of the season.
LaFleur ran more no-huddle against the Giants on Sunday than maybe he had all season. He only used it for a play or two here and there, not on most or all of a series like former coach Mike McCarthy did. The only time it produced anything was on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams early in the fourth quarter. On that play, Aaron Rodgers caught the Giants making a substitution and went hurry-up to get a free play because of a 12-men-on-the-field penalty. That free play yielded the touchdown. Still, the Packers could use a change-of-pace for when their offense stagnates, and no-huddle is one way to do it.
Players are adapting to the new player-safety rules. On Tramon Williams’ fourth-quarter interception, you could see cornerback Jaire Alexander peeling back to make a block on a receiver behind the play. But it would have been a blindside block by the league’s new definition, and Alexander pulled up at the last second.
Where is Montravius Adams? The third-year defensive lineman didn’t get on the field until mop-up time and had only six snaps. After getting 24 snaps at the Los Angeles Chargers and 15 against Carolina, he had only six snaps last week. Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and Tyler Lancaster got the huge majority of playing time among the defensive linemen Sunday, and rookie Kingsley Keke, not Adams, was the first lineman off the bench.