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Breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers Tight Ends

Breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers tight ends. Here are the grades for the Packers tight ends in 2021.

The Green Bay Packers had a very explosive offense during the 2021 regular season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers offense and went on to win his fourth NFL MVP award. Wide receiver Davante Adams was just as lethal. Adams caught an eye-popping 123 passes for 1,553 yards with 11 touchdowns. Running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon made up one of the best running back tandems in the NFL. While the Packers regular season offense was one of the best, they did so without a lot of production from the tight end position. Here is a breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers tight ends.

Grading the Green Bay Packers Tight Ends in 2021

A common theme for the Packers 2021 season was injuries. Many position groups were hit hard by injuries this past season and the Green Bay Packers tight ends were no exception. Starting tight end Robert Tonyan, the Packers best receiving tight end, saw his 2021 season cut short by a knee injury. Backup tight end Dominque Dafney also missed time due to an injury.

Tight end coach Justin Outten, similar to offensive line coach Adam Stenavich, had his work cut out for him because of injuries. Outten did a solid job with what he was dealt though. Due to the work he did, he was hired by Nathaniel Hackett to be the Denver Broncos new offensive coordinator.

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With Outten departing, the Green Bay Packers tight ends will be led by a new coach. John Dunn, who served as an analyst last season, was promoted to tight ends coach in Green Bay. As pointed out, he brings with him a very unimpressive resume. But the Packers will have some decisions to make this off-season regarding the tight end position. Here is how the Packers tight ends fared in 2021.

Robert Tonyan, Grade: C+ Packers Tight Ends

The Packers had high hopes for Robert Tonyan in 2021. In 2020, Tonyan caught 52 passes for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Packers had been looking for a tight end to stretch the field and it appeared they had found it in Tonyan.

Unfortunately, that production did not carry over to 2021. In the eight games he played before his injury, he caught just 18 passes for 204 yards and had just two touchdown catches. However, the drop in production was not all on Tonyan. With injuries to the Packers offensive tackles, both Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, were asked to stay in and block more.

Tonyan’s knee injury could not have happened at a worse time, for him and the Packers. For the team, it forced them to play without their best tight end. And for Tonyan, he heads into an off-season, in which he becomes an unrestricted free agent, with his status up in the air. As of now, when he will be able to play again, is unknown.

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If Tonyan can bounce back, he is more than worth the risk to re-sign. The problem is, if he misses part of the season, the Packers do not have a tight end currently on their roster that can do what Tonyan can as a pass-catcher.

Marcedes Lewis, Grade: B

Age is just a number and that is a cliche Marcedes Lewis lives by. Even at 37 years old, Lewis was a vital part of the Packers offense. But it was not as a pass-catcher.

Even with catching 23 passes for 214 yards, that is not what made him so important. Out of the Green Bay Packers tight ends, Lewis is their best blocker. In fact, it can be argued, he is the best blocking tight end in the NFL. When the Packers lost starting left tackle Elgton Jenkins, and inserted former undrafted free agent Yosh Nijman, it was Lewis to the rescue.

Stenavich, along with head coach Matt LaFleur, made sure to give Nijman help. His help came in the way of Lewis. Lewis’s blocking helped make Nijman look like a very capable tackle. It also gave Packers fans the belief that Nijman is the next coming of Willie Roaf. Lewis’s ability as a blocker was a major key to the Packers offense throughout the season.

Similar to Tonyan, Lewis will be an unrestricted free agent this off-season. With the Packers having such a mess with their salary cap, many have speculated that Lewis might not return. One  Packers podcaster made an argument, one without any merit, that because he fumbled in their playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, he should noy return to Green Bay. Lewis will not be expensive to retain, plus, with David Bakhtiari and Jenkins still recovering from injury, Lewis would shore up the blocking for the Packers offensive line.

Josiah Deguara, Grade:  C-

Deguara played in only two games in 2020. With only two games of experience, many would consider his 2021 season his first in the NFL.

Deguara should not be blamed for where he was drafted (third round in 2020, 94th overall). But, because of his high draft status, much is expected out of him. When Brian Gutekunst selected him, it was envisioned that he would play a role similar to 49ers fullback/tight end/h-back Kyle Juszczyk. However, in 2021, Deguara did not look anything at all like Juszcyzyk. Some of that is on the coaching staff and some of it is on Deguara.

At 6’2″ tall, Deguara is not built to be an inline tight end. He would be better off doing what Juszcyzyk does for Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan lines up Juszcyzyk all over the field, looking for mismatches. But LaFleur only occasionally did that, which put Deguara in a difficult situation.

However, even when Deguara was put in situations to succeed, he rarely took advantage. There were several situations, in which he failed, that he drew the ire of Aaron Rodgers. Deguara is a young player and he is going to make mistakes. Being told about it by Rodgers is going to happen. But going into his third season, he needs to learn from those mistakes and not let them happen again.

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The Green Bay Packers tight ends group needs young playmakers. Deguara was selected in the third round and is a high and valuable draft pick. He needs to start to carve out a place in the Packers offense. To do so, he needs to start to make plays when the ball comes his way. For the 2021 season, he did not do that. If that continues, he will go down as another failed draft pick by Brian Gutekunst.

Dominique Dafney, Grade: C

Dafney’s numbers from 2021, two catches for 34 yards, are not going to blow anyone away. Dafney is not going to be an All-Pro pass-catching tight end. However, he does have a place on an NFL team, especially with the Packers.

It can be argued, that Dafney can do what the Packers are expecting Deguara to do. Which is playing multiple positions, on special teams, and doing the dirty work. Gutekunst spent a third-round pick on Deguara, but Gutekunst got Dafney off of the waiver wire.

Rich Bisaccia has been brought in to clean up the special teams mess that LaFleur and Maurice Drayton left him. Bisaccia is going to need players who are willing and able to be contributors. Dafney is that type of player. He will be an exclusive restricted free agent. It will not cost a lot to bring him back and for what he can do, it would be worth it.

Tyler Davis, Grade: C

Davis was another in-season pick-up by Gutekunst. In 2021, he played in 14 games and he caught four passes for 35 yards without a touchdown reception.

The second-year tight end did not grab much attention, but he is an intriguing prospect. At 6’4″ and 252 pounds, he is built like a true inline tight end (unlike Dafney and Deguara). While he only caught four passes, he did look comfortable running routes and caught the ball well. Because of that, he has a shot at being on the 2022 roster.

Click here for a breakdown of the Packers guards and center and here for a look at their offensive tackles.

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