Packers revamp tight end position with two additions heading into 2017 season

Trio has combined 21 years of NFL experience
Posted at 3:41 PM, Jul 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-31 18:10:13-04

The tight end position looks a lot different in Green Bay these days.

Martellus Bennett, a free agent acquisition from reigning Super Bowl LI New England dwarfs the competition - and his teammates on the practice fields - with his 6-foot-6, 275-pound frame.

Lance Kendricks, a former Badger, brings solid production from his years as a Ram, despite never being on a team with a winning record.

And then there's Richard Rodgers, who the Packers drafted in 2014, but had a bit of a production drop-off last season.

Together, the trio has 21 years of combined NFL experience. And each player brings something different to the table. 

"I mean, it’s the first day (of pads), but it’s been fun. Obviously learning from those two guys is big for me, just like Jared (Cook) last year. He came in and taught me a lot of things, and Marty and Lance do the same thing. They teach me reading defenses and it’s just been great having them," Kendricks said Saturday. "(Conversations now are) a little bit, I think, geared towards the defense. Like we talk about defenses a lot in our room now because everybody has the experience, they know what the defenses are doing, what the defenses want to take away."

Rodgers averaged 27.7 snaps per game when Jared Cook was healthy last season. But his Packers experience is helping the two new tight ends adjust. Bennett says some of the offensive signals can get lost in translation this early on in camp, so it's nice to have Rodgers there.

"I always turn to him like, 'hey I have no idea what that means right now.' Because sometimes they do stuff that we haven’t gotten to know in installations, so sometimes I just have to turn to Rich and be like, ‘hey, what was that on that?’" Bennett said. "So I think he’s kind of like my dictionary."

And Rodgers also helps the two new guys understand the other Rodgers on offense -- see: Aaron.

"I teach them little things," Richard Rodgers said. "I’ve been playing with Aaron for a while now, so just there’s things that Aaron likes to do, signals and things like that. Anywhere I can help them out, just within the offense, that’s where I try to help them out."

Rodgers, Bennett and Kendricks together put up 135 catches for 1,471 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016 for the Packers, Patriots and Rams, respectively. It's not far-fetched to say this might be the most talented and versatile tight end group Coach Mike McCarthy has had in his arsenal in Green Bay.

"Love the tight end position. If I was going to be frankly critical, I think we've used those guys probably a little more in the backfield probably than they're suited, some of the guys we've had in the past," McCarthy said. "I think Richard Rodgers has done a great job with what we ask him to do. And now with Marty, an ability to have an on-the-line tight end is something that we needed, and that was a big part of that acquiring him and the excitement of having that."

One of the biggest improvements the tight end unit can provide is additional pass protection, helping to bolster a young group in the backfield.

"We can throw the football. We have a great quarterback. Our receivers, rhythm, timing - that's going to be a positive for us and has been," said McCarthy. "But the ability to run the football and stress the defense from a formation, and alignment location, your tight ends play a big part of that."