Friday, August 7, 2009

Finley Out to Prove His Critics Wrong (Namely, Me)

Hey, more power to him. The more successful he is, the better it is for the Green Bay Packers, and that's something we can all agree on.

It's just that I may have to admit I was wrong.

Jermichael Finley, a second-year tight end for the Packers, is looking like he is on a mission to prove himself this training camp, showing the amazing athleticism that prompted his selection in the third round of the draft last year.

I didn't like the pick at the time. Finley was young, raw, and undeveloped as a blocker. He was sold as a one-trick pony as a receiving tight end, a luxury when you have the wide receiving corps the Packers possess. What the Packers were in need of was help in the run game, a solid additional blocker that could line up on the LOS or in the backfield and help turn the Packers' zone blocking scheme into an effective running attack.

My pick was Martellus Bennett, who ended up going to the Cowboys in the second round, a more proven blocker.

I liked the Finley pick even less when he had trouble finding the field as a rookie, despite there being only one other proven tight end on the roster. I felt even more "right" when he was chastised for calling out Aaron Rodgers for his own terrible route-running.

Meanwhile, Martellus Bennett had 20 receptions for 283 yards and 4 TDs in his rookie season.

I was reassured by several Finley (and Thompson) fans that Jermichael was very young and would develop in time. I scoffed.

This offseason has spelled a different season for both of these tight ends, though. Martellus Bennett is getting the "goofball" label, getting fined by the NFL last January for posting a YouTube video with some racial insinuations. And, like Finley, he also Twitters incessantly and sometimes has to explain them to team officials.

But, both Bennett and Finley are also doing something I didn't expect from the latter: they are both tearing up training camp defenses with their size and athleticism. Finley, like Aaron Rodgers, likely took some advice from the PR department and decided to present himself as a more humble, focused player this offseason.

And, in training camp, Finley has backed it up. As Bedard said Thursday, "TE Jermichael Finley had another very strong practice. He might have been the player of the day. He looks effortless cutting across the field and making catches. He has such a big frame that it’s hard for defenders to get around him."

Not only has Finley been making some spectacular, athletic catches, he's been delivering some decent hits to defenders along the way, too.

In many ways, Finley and Bennett may find themselves quietly in competition with one another, perhaps only in my mind because I saw Bennett as the guy the Packers should have snapped up instead of Brian Brohm. But in a lot of ways, they both seem to be running parallel with each other....second-year ultra-athletic tight ends trying to establish themselves as game-changers, suffering through growing pains and mistakes along the way.

We'll get a chance to see how far Finley has progressed tomorrow night at Family Night. Soon, I may have to own up and confess that my doubts in Finley were unfounded.

As a Green Bay Packer fan, those are the ones you enjoy owning up to.


Franklin Hillside said...

" Aaron Rodgers, likely took some advice from the PR department and decided to present himself as a more humble, focused player this offseason"

What? Not sure I follow this train of thought.

C.D. Angeli said...

You know, Franklin, I was looking all over for the article I read regarding Rodgers talking about how he handled the Favre furor last year with a lot of help from Jeff Blumb in the PR department, admitting he was looking to come off as the humble, team guy. Can't find the link, though.

Franklin Hillside said...

No worries, C.D., I just read Clark Judge's Packer Camp preview:

Rodgers references the PR Deptartment in a side box toward the end of the article. I had never heard that. He's a smart dude, no question.