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Tight End play is anything but tight…

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by Bruce, Feb 1, 2007.

  1. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Tight End play is anything but tight…

    … and everyone from GM Ted Thompson to TE coach Ben McAdoo will need to get their screwdrivers and wrenches working overtime to tighten down this position that came apart in 2007.

    Mike McCarthy came to town in 2006 declaring that he would bring back a version of the west coast offense that utilized the TE much more than his predecessor, however a number of factors resulted in this being little more than lip service.

    Certainly, the fact that the Packers often started 3 rookie offensive linemen and were in a year of transition ushering in a new blocking scheme factored into the disappearing act of the tight end position in the Packers’ offense, but that is only part of the story...

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------===============================================================

    Just days before the start of the ‘05’ season, Bubba Franks signed his dream contact - 28 million dollars for seven seasons, with a $5 million signing bonus. The day he signed the contract, Bubba declared he was ready to roll, and many including Ted Thompson believed the Tight End position was secured for years to come.

    After all, Franks had burst onto the NFL scene as a red zone scoring machine – making the Pro Bowl in ‘01’ ‘02’ & ‘03’. While he missed the Pro Bowl in ‘04’ he still produced seven touchdowns and was a threat anytime the Green & Gold moved into the red zone.

    Instead of Bubba rolling after signing his contract, the wheels seemed to come off of the bus. He reported to the team not in game shape and was immediately injured. Struggling to play through injury, Bubba started only 8 games and playing in only 10. Bubba’s production dropped dramatically in ‘05’ to career lows in every category – 25 catches for only 207 yards and only 1 TD.

    The quick shift from dream-come-true in August 2005 to the bad dream of the '05' season, was placed in the context of injury and missing camps and exhibition season. Most expected redemption come 2006. Instead, for Bubba the downward turn continued, and the dream slid into full-fledged nightmare.

    While Bubba never could stretch the field or do much after the catch, catching the ball was something Franks always did well – at least until ‘06’. Bubba started dropping the ball, and each drop seemed to build on itself, until his once steady hands seemed to go AWOL – resulting in an atrocious 11.3% drop rate.

    As Bubba pressed to make up for each drop, his concentration seemed to be headed for the fence too, developing a propensity for mental lapses that resulted in penalties and fumbles – something he had not done since his rookie season. For the first time in his career Bubba did not get into the end zone, and failed to put up a single reception of more than 20 yards for the first time too.

    Finally, Bubba’s confidence joined his AWOL hands on the desertion list. As a final insult, even his blocking ability seemed to abandon him.

    GM Ted Thompson, never one to quickly admit a mistake declared, "Bubba's still a good player. We asked him to do some other things this year and I think that's part of the lack of production. And he probably didn't play as well as he wanted to. But he's a very good player here."

    Mike McCarthy seemed to offer a more candid assessment: "As far as Bubba Franks, you can blame some of it on the way he was used and you can blame some of it on his confidence when things didn't go well. I look for Bubba to come back here and go through the off-season program. He's not getting any younger - attack it like he needs to attack it and get ready to play. Hopefully, we'll move more towards a number of basic pass concepts that the tight end is more of a primary option in the passing game. The opportunities will increase for that group, but also he needs to get back to fundamentals and get his confidence back."

    Franks will need to spend the off season working in Green Bay, putting in the time that gained him the trust and respect of his teammates and of this new coaching staff if he hopes to revive his playing career.

    [​IMG]

    It is time for Bubba Franks to stop dreaming and resume playing. Anything less will likely lead to the team taking the size-able $3.571 million cap hit that would come from cutting him and moving on without the Big Guy from Miami.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------===============================================================

    If Bubba Franks began the ‘06’ season headed downward, the opposite can be said of David Martin.

    David grabbed the new coaching staff’s attention, and quickly emerged as the team’s most dependable pass-catching TE in early 2006. Despite some dings and bruises that he had to fight through, he seemed to be sure handed and utilized his speed to create a threat to the middle of the field that was absent when he was not on the field.

    Never short on athletic ability, the 6-4 265 lb Martin is big, fast and only 27 years old. David is also a free agent.

    Unfortunately, once again, right as he seemed to be emerging as the threat his athleticism teased fans and staff with for years, Martin when down to injury in Week 10 and pretty much lived on the shelf thereafter.

    David Martin still has upside; he has learned to be a good blocker as well as receiver. Again, David seemed to really be coming into his own with 21 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns in his first 9 games. However, the very serious question TT, MM and other staff must consider is: can Martin stay healthy enough for the team to re-invest in this oft injured young man from Tennessee?

    Potential would answer yes, but his injury history would probably say no. Over the course of 6 seasons, Martin has missed a full 30% of possible games and he always seems to go down at the most inopportune times.

    [​IMG]

    This coaching staff loves most things about Martin, making it is likely that this UFA will re-sign with GB, but I expect TT to be waiting with a quick hook and injury settlement check if David visits the training room table for the in-firmed even one more time.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------===============================================================

    If Bubba struggled to hold on to the rock, Donald Lee seemed to play post amputation in 2006 – putting up an unacceptable drop rate of a smidge less than 23%. Lee’s promise of ‘05’ shifted to doubts of ‘06’where every ball thrown his way was met by crossed fingers – not just by coaches and fans but by Donald Lee too.

    What Lee has going for him is: he plays hard, always comes to work in top shape, contributes on special teams, and blocks with solid technique. At 6-4 250 lbs, the 26 year old former Mississippi State player may deserve a do over and shot in 2006. However, after watching his high percentage of drops Ted Thompson may just think he deserves to be shot instead…

    [​IMG]

    Donald Lee, like David Martin will become an UFA on March 2, adding to the uncertainty of the TE position in Green Bay.
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    Twenty-three year old Tory Humphrey, a 6-2 257 lb TE from Central Michigan, surprised everyone by securing a spot on the Packers roster in 2006. He blocks well and was a contributor on special teams before shredding his hamstring and landing upon the injured reserve.

    Despite never catching a pass (he never had one thrown his way in a game), pre-injury Tory demonstrated surprising get-up-and-go. On the other hand, Humphrey’s lack of height (6 foot 2) works against this hardworking youngster securing a spot in ‘07’. The price is right though, so this youngster will be brought back to camp and given an opportunity to compete and perhaps surprise everyone again.

    [​IMG]

    Let’s hope Tory doesn’t follow Donald Lee’s lead in his return performance and start crossing his fingers.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------===============================================================

    Zac Alcorn was an interesting undrafted rookie free agent pick up from Black Hills State College in ‘06’. Any one who had the opportunity to watch Zac practice had to see that he stood out from his fellow tight ends by catching everything thrown at him. He also has surprising athletic ability and motors very well for a man his size -- which also catches those who see him for the first time.


    While practice and game production are too very different challenges, this 26 year old (old for a rookie) is a cut 6-4 260 lbs, has an interesting story and will be given a chance to compete for a roster spot at perhaps Green Bay’s least settled position heading into the 2007 season.

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    The Tight End position is indeed in need of serious attention – it is broken and everyone is screaming “fix it!”

    Our resident draft expert and former scout Patty, has Green Bay nabbing Greg Olsen, a big TE target from Miami (Bubba’s alma mater) with its 2nd round (47th pick overall) selection in her latest Mock Draft. It is hard to argue with her logic, and many expect TT to spend a day one pick on a TE.

    Our free agent followers are quick to point out the presence of some intriguing free agent TE possibilities including: SF’s Eric Johnson, NE’s Daniel Graham, Seattle’s Jerramy Stevens, Indy’s Ben Utecht (RFA) …. Certainly Green Bay has the money to make such a move in free agency if it so chooses.

    Besides, there are some interesting subplots that go with a couple of these guys. Johnson is a guy who produced big time numbers just two seasons ago in ‘04’ and has played for HC Mike McCarthy in ‘05’; while Stevens is a former Thompson selection who has never produced but whom Ted may still see promise in his sizable upside.

    If nothing else, it will be a position of high drama during the off-season and throughout the camps and exhibition season. Here’s hoping the drama ends there and the production returns once the lights come on for MM’s second shot at putting TE back into his West Coast arsenal.
     
  2. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    Excellent read again Bruce..

    At seasons end I was quick to say let Bubba go..But once emotions calmed down, realized Bubba has the ability so he deserves the chance to fix what ever it is..

    But if he doesnt, then he needs to go
     
  3. Cliff

    Cliff Cheesehead

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    I think you are Bruce with another user name.
     
  4. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    ???
     
  5. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    Yeah

    ???
     
  6. retiredgrampa

    retiredgrampa Cheesehead

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    Sorry, but I don't see Bubba "coming back". He has always been slow but his blocking skill was useful as were his hands in short-yardage situations. Many opinions I've read state that his blocking has deteriorated and he's no longer a reliable receiver. So what is left? A successful team must not form attachments to players that can no longer contribute. Hard as it may seem, when guys like Bubba, Hendo, and Fergy can't get it done...they MUST be replaced. Failure to do so will insure weakness in critical areas. We can't afford it.
     
  7. Cliff

    Cliff Cheesehead

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    Ditto here. Bubba should be sent on his way.
     
  8. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    Why would you be sorry?

    I certainly agree with your attachment theory, but think it must be tempered with building a team where players and coaches trust each other.

    Frankly (no pun intended), TT seems more attached to the idea of Franks being OK and nothing that can't be resolved.

    MM seems more detached and setting clearer expectations of what he expects from Bubba if he comes back.

    I wrote an evaluation piece -- where I wrote it the way I see it. I have no attachment to Franks and think it could go either way.

    I do think the Packers need to consider TE a primary need position, along with RB, S and CB. Secondary needs are OL, WR and DE. Of course all of that changes if Brett retires.
     
  9. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    I wouldn't mind Franks coming back but I think it's safe to assume he shouldn't be playing a huge role in our passing offense. I think he's a good TE for goal line formations and he is a great blocking TE. One of the better blocking TE's in the NFL in my opinion. So while I think Franks is still serviceable, he's not much of a help to us in our weakest area and that's a pass catching TE.

    Overall last year Thompson changed our weakest position into our strongest position. That was LB’s. I hope he does something similar with the Tight Ends this year as I believe this is our weakest position.

    To Date, I believe Thompson's worse move was paying Bubba Franks instead of Javon Walker.
     
  10. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    With or without Franks' return, I fully expect the TE position to be utilized much more in '07'
     
  11. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    I thought from the beginning that it was a mistake to pay Franks so much, but when you put it THAT way, it sounds even worse. Thompson's initial mistake was to lowball Bubba, using the transition tag, then as training camp went on without Bubba and nobody emerged at the tight end position, Thompson had to bite the bullet and give Franks a contract that was more than what he deserved. Hopefully that was just a "rookie GM" mistake and won't be repeated with other players.

    After that near-catastrophe at Lambeau against Minnesota, in which Bubba nearly single-handedly lost the game, I lost whatever remaining confidence I had in him. He is just another guy competing for a roster spot, as far as I'm concerned. Could Zac Alcorn, Tory Humphrey, or whoever, be any worse?

    Bruce, I enjoyed the article as always, and would like to hear your opinion on how McCarthy's frequent use of the tight end as a fullback may affect Thompson's personnel decisions with regard to the tight end position. Or do you think it's pretty much a non-factor?
     
  12. porky88

    porky88 Cheesehead

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    The sad part was the popular decision in Green Bay among the fans and media was to pay Bubba Franks and let Javon Walker alone. Believe me when I say Walker went about his contract in the wrong way going public. Bubba didn't do that and that's why he got the better deal in my opinion. However looking back it's sad to see how ignorant some of us were because like him or not, Walker is a heck of a player and better than Bubba Franks. Ironically Walker reported for camp and I believe Bubba Franks didn't.
     
  13. Greg C.

    Greg C. Cheesehead

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    Franks didn't report for camp because he didn't have a contract. Walker did report in 2005, honoring his contract although he had done a lot of public griping about it.
     
  14. longtimefan

    longtimefan Super Moderator Staff Member Super Moderator

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    As Greg said, Bubba didnt have a contract..So really cant compare the 2 situations.
     
  15. Bruce

    Bruce Cheesehead

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    You and Greg are correct -- a player is not allowed to report without a contract.

    However, Porky makes a good point. Choosing Bubba as a priority over Javon was (at least in hindsight) a big mistake. GM's need to factor things in like this.

    Javon cited the Packers treatment of Bubba when they were tagging him as proof that he needed to protect himself from potential injury related contract problems. As it played out he was not wrong.

    But that is all water under the bridge now...
     

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