It’s consistently hard to know what to make of Jermichael Finley. On the one hand, he posted a career high in receptions in 2012. On the other, his yards per reception were the lowest of his career, and he scored the fewest touchdowns of any complete season since his rookie year.
Of course, the mixed bag has been more or less the pattern with Mr. Finley. His 2011 campaign, probably his best overall, was marred by inconsistent play and dropped balls. Prior to that, a lack of focus and overall immaturity made him difficult to deal with. But still, the Packers put up with it, in part because they’ve committed a lot of money to him and in part because when he’s at his best, he’s one of the most productive tight ends the Packers have ever had.
Only five tight ends in Packer history have caught more than 50 passes in a season, and only two have done it three times: Jermichael Finley and Paul Coffman. Finley has caught 55 or more passes three times, a feat that’s only been performed six times total in the history of the franchise.
Not only that, but Finley brings a physical presence to the receiving corps that’s hard to duplicate. Standing 6’5″ with a listed weight of 247, he’s the tallest end on the roster, and he’s easily faster than Andrew Quarless, Matthew Mulligan, and Brandon Bostick, the only tight ends with a realistic shot at making the roster who outweigh him. He might also be playing a little bit heavier this year, too.
The point is, he’s a big dude, and having a big guy who can run does a lot of great things for your offense. Safeties and linebackers are sucked to the middle of the field when Finley is present, leaving a lot of room for receivers on the outside to operate. And since he’s so athletic, the Packers can split him out wide near the goal line and let him match up against a smaller cornerback.
Of course, all this has been well documented. We all know what Finley is capable of doing. The question has been (and will continue to be) can he produce?
This year, he has every incentive to do so. He’s in a contract year, and if he’s looking to cash in next season, he’d better have a solid year this year. He’ll have the opportunities, too. With Greg Jennings off to Minnesota and Donald Driver off to wherever retired people go, Finley should have more than his share of opportunities.
But will he take advantage? That remains to be seen.