The injuries that the Green Bay Packers suffered throughout the 2012 season dramatically changed their roster from preseason to postseason. How much of their struggles can/will be solved by the returning health of their players is an intriguing question to ponder this offseason. There’s one player, in particular, that I am very interested in seeing retake the field in 2013: tight end Andrew Quarless.
Primarily used in blocking schemes, Quarless had an opportunity for an increased role in his rookie year when starter Jermichael Finley went down for the year. After good, if quiet, performances in 2010 and 2011, Quarless suffered a nasty knee injury in December of 2011. The injury was so significant that his 2012 season was immediately thought to be in jeopardy. After finishing up the 2011 season on injured reserve, he started the 2012 on the Physically Unable to Perform list. There was a glimmer of hope when Quarless was added to the active roster in November, but, for the second straight season, Quarless finished the year on injured reserve.
The fact that he made the active roster in 2012, albeit very briefly, is a good sign that the team thought he was physically able to practice and had at least some chance of playing on game day. I think 2013 will be a great chance for Quarless to pick up where he left off as an improving tight end that can push Finley a little bit. I don’t think there’s any danger of Quarless winning a starting spot, but a little competition might keep the pressure on Finley.
There is, of course, a chance the Packers will part ways with Quarless before the season. Quarless will be in the final year of his contract and the Packers do have four other tight ends in Finley, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, and Ryan Taylor, all whom they like. Green Bay, however, has never been afraid of unconventional rosters and they have carried five tight ends on the roster the last two years.
A year and a half is a long time to go without playing a single live snap, but I do think Quarless can and will be a difference-maker on the field. With Finley set to bolt after 2013, the Packers are looking for another strong and athletic tight end to step up, and Quarless can be that guy.