Ben McAdoo is a coach in a proverbial candy shop of flavorful tight ends.
Looking for something with a burst of flavor? Try the Jermichael Finley flavor; it’s guaranteed not to disappoint.
Your tastes trend toward the traditional? Well, then you’ll love second-year man Andrew Quarless.
Want something with a lot of different flavors rolled into one? Fifth-round draft pick D.J. Williams might be just for you.
“I’m looking forward to getting my hands on these guys,” McAdoo, the Packers’ tight ends coach, said.
McAdoo is the coach of a unit that’s favored by the offensive design of a head coach who likes to remind people he’s a former tight end, which is Coach Mike McCarthy’s way of saying don’t be surprised if the tight end position gets more than its fair share of attention. Why not?
“In this offense, this is the best position to play in the league. You really have a chance to showcase your talents. We’ll use you to play outside the numbers. We’ll play you in a traditional tight end position. We’ll play you in a backfield position. We have the type of guys that are athletic enough to put themselves into position to be successful,” McAdoo said.
“You can’t say I’m not being used right,” he added.
No tight end in McCarthy’s offense dares make that complaint. It’s almost as though McCarthy and McAdoo have a tight end for every role.
Finley, who is coming off a season lost to a knee injury, is the Packers’ star tight end. He’s the big, game-breaking, pass-catching threat that can take the Packers from the No. 9 offense in the league to No. 1.
Quarless is a big, rugged blocker with speed and deep-seam potential.
Williams is a hybrid-sized motion tight end that offers potential to be used as fullback/H-back, slot receiver and even wide receiver.
Tom Crabtree, a former undrafted free agent and practice-squad member, is a classic in-line blocker that, McAdoo said, is a better pass-catcher than people give him credit for being.
Most of the excitement is for the return of Finley.
“I expect him to come in and continue to improve, continue to get better, and the sky is the limit,” McAdoo said. “Quarless, same thing. I expect him to take a nice jump this year. He’s going to improve in all areas. He plays the game fast.
“When you see 88 (Finley) move around out there, you’ll understand what the buzz is about,” McAdoo told the reporter, voluntarily going back to discussion about Finley. “Whether it’s practice or games, the guy’s about football.”
Tight end is the position of more creativity than at any other position in football these days. Once upon a time, the philosophy was that every wide receiver on the roster ran faster, jumped higher, caught better and could do more with the ball after the catch than the team’s best tight end, so why throw it to a tight end? Tight ends, after all, were made to block.
“The gap is closing. Those basketball guys, the guys with the length, the radius they have is so much larger. You can put the ball in a larger radius and have it be a completed pass,” McAdoo said.
With an increasing emphasis on the passing game, tight ends have become two parts receiver and one part blocker. It’s all about creating mismatches and McAdoo has the personnel to do it.
“Usually you have a tight end with a linebacker, a safety. Usually the length advantage is going to be there. You throw the ball on their back shoulder and you’re going to have an advantage,” McAdoo said.
“You turn on the college tapes and those guys don’t exist anymore,” he added of the old-fashioned block-a-lot, catch-a-little tight ends. “You look for the guys that have length, flexibility and spit fire. We’re not looking for finesse guys and our guys aren’t finesse guys.”
Finley and Quarless have length. Williams specializes in flexibility.
“We’re not a power team. We’re a zone (blocking) team. He’s going to do some move stuff for us. I see him as a smaller Alge Crumpler. He plays with a good feel,” McAdoo said of Williams.
“Quarless should be able to do everything. He should be able to block at the point (of attack) and he can run.
“Jermichael, in my mind, is like Michael Irvin playing tight end,” McAdoo added.
That’s a lot of flavor for one position.