The Lass Word: Opportunity Knocks For Deguara

Pack needs someone to step up at tight end.

The path of a pro football player is often a long and winding road.  Take Packers tight end Robert Tonyan for example.  From relative obscurity at a small college program, to making an NFL roster, to breaking out as the league’s leading touchdown catcher at his position, to a slow start this year.  Then, just as he seemed to be reasserting his prominence in the Green Bay offense, he blows out his knee and his season is over. 

 

“Bobby’s a tough one to replace” says Matt LaFleur.  “He’s a guy that is so versatile, both in the run game and the pass game.“  Tonyan now likely faces surgery and a long, arduous rehab process that will take the better part of a year. 

 

Josiah Deguara can relate.  He knows precisely what’s ahead for Tonyan. He just went through the same thing.  Deguara’s rookie season in 2020 ended after it had barely gotten started with a knee injury in week four.  He had to watch from the sideline as Tonyan seized control of a wide open battle for tight end playing time by grabbing eleven scoring throws.  Now, in an ironic twist of fate, it is he who may most benefit from Big Bob’s misfortune. 

 

The Packers often use multiple tight ends.  They are more or less designated as either blockers or pass catchers, though all of them have to do both jobs.  Up to now, Tonyan has been the pass catcher, while Deguara, Marcedes Lewis, and Dominique Dafney have been primarily blockers.  They will leak out occasionally to function as a receiving option, but not often.  With regard to what happens now at the position, LaFleur would only say “Luckily, we have some good depth there, so it’s going to have to be kind of by committee.  There’s going to be some things that we might have to adjust in terms of how we game plan, just putting guys in different spots.”    

 

Indeed, one of the guys likely to find himself in a different spot is Deguara.  Look for him to slide into more of a pass catching role.  It won’t be new to him.  If you watch his highlight reel from his days in college, you will see a big guy with good speed, running downfield patterns and using great hands to catch long passes.  He caught 92 throws for over 1,100 yards for the University of Cincinnati.  He is the latest in what is becoming a lineage of Bearcat tight ends, following Brent Celek, and a fellow by the name of Travis Kelce, who happens to be the current top player in the game at the position. 

 

Green Bay drafted Deguara in the third round in 2020.  At the time, the pick was criticized by some of the draft analysts as being a bit of a reach.  Keep in mind many were also critical of the selection of running back AJ Dillon in the second round of that draft.  Dillon is fast proving his critics wrong.  Deguara has been waiting his turn to do the same. As a Packer, number 81 has yet to establish himself as a frequent target for Aaron Rodgers.  He caught just one throw last year before the injury.  This season, Deguara has four receptions, usually close to the line of scrimmage, for a humble 28 yards, and has not been used as a downfield threat.   

 

He is not complaining.  After what he went through over the past twelve months, Deguara is literally just happy to be here. Although he had to wonder if the opportunity would be scuttled in the very first game of the season against New Orleans.  He was lined up in a fullback position, when he took a brutal shot to the head and neck area and was carted off the field. The injury was diagnosed as a concussion.  He would miss the week two game against Detroit, but returned for the week three contest in San Francisco.

 

“Perspective is huge” he told the media at training camp.  “Not being able to play this game is tough.  I’ve never went through something like this before, where I went through such a long period, especially with such a big injury, one of the biggest injuries in the sport.  Obviously, just your appreciation for the game, everything you go through to get to a certain point and then all that is taken away.” 

 

The 24 year old California native admitted that he spent some time being bitter and feeling sorry for himself, but he says that ended after his surgery, as he then realized “it was time to grind.”  

 

Deguara has a deep spiritual connection and claims his faith has helped him get back this far.  “I know God has placed me here for a reason.  So, just appreciating the place I’m in.  Playing for the Green Bay Packers, it’s an unbelievable experience and I’m just trying to take advantage of every opportunity.” 

 

It would appear that opportunity has never been greater than now. 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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7 points

Comments (36)

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Houndog's picture

November 01, 2021 at 07:25 am

We're about to find out if Deguara is the 'Swiss army knife' the Packers thought they were getting when they drafted him.
I'm hoping he is, and that goes for Dafney as well, he did some nice things late last year and it'd be great to see more.

16 points
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Bure9620's picture

November 01, 2021 at 07:28 am

I liked Deguara coming out, loved his versatility. Frankly it will come down to Rodgers "trusting" him. (Which I have always hated). The delay of game will not help him. Frankly, the delay of game on the 1 yard line is on MLF and Rodgers. Too much scheme. Run the ball with your 250 pound back. I agree with Vic Ketchman here, they tried to trick the Cardinals and ended up tricking themselves.

10 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

November 01, 2021 at 11:27 am

It's so easy to second guess play calls after the fact. The Cards had like an 8 man box and I'm betting if Deguara lines up correctly, they score, b/c the defense had to choose b/t covering him and covering Aaron and one of them would have made the end zone. Sometimes scheme is about outsmarting the defense. And why would you hate Rodgers having to trust WRs? So you don't have the end of the game where Brady expected the WR to cross in front of the CB that made the game-winning pick 6? Or have the end of the game where Tyler Murray throws it to a WR who isn't even looking for the ball, for another game winning pick? I'm good with Rodgers' level of turnovers in the NFL and having to trust players to know their jobs. He allows for mistakes, clearly. He goes back to guys that make mistakes. Requiring them to know their basic job on any give play is the most basic requirement of playing the NFL. That's not on Rodgers.

3 points
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BlindHomer's picture

November 01, 2021 at 12:16 pm

Couldn't have said it better. Why is expecting someone to be competent at their job somehow unreasonable?

0 points
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Bure9620's picture

November 01, 2021 at 02:42 pm

You would have to admit the "Aaron Rodgers trust" circle is quite unique. He takes it to another level like no QB has. Brady works with his newer and younger pass catchers and elevates them. Rodgers will literally not throw the ball to guys whom are actually open on plays. It is a bit ridiculous. His job is to play Quarterback. If the GM trusts a guy to pay him and put him on the 53, and the coaches trust that same guy enough to activate him and put him on the field, that should be enough. Rodgers should not have the power to exclude a player from a game plan.

0 points
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Minniman's picture

November 02, 2021 at 01:53 am

Case in point during the Buccs game when "Neville Nobody" was allowed to leak from the slot right down the seam for a TD - sorry Cyril Grayson - but you get the point.

I foresee Rodgers and MLF having a lot of fun(success) with this late in the year. It's too well set up not to use.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 01, 2021 at 05:41 pm

The whole personal responsibility mantra and all that.

0 points
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dblbogey's picture

November 01, 2021 at 12:19 pm

If Lazard added 10 lbs, he would make an incredible tight end. My solution to next year's tight end problem.

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dobber's picture

November 01, 2021 at 01:15 pm

There are plenty of TEs in the league who are 6'"3-6'5" and 230-ish. Tonyan wasn't much bigger than that coming out, and isn't much bigger than that now.

Even if they moved Lazard to TE, his blocking skills aren't up to snuff to compete as an in-line blocker. He'd still end up lining up as he does now. Why slow him down further by adding weight?

4 points
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Since'61's picture

November 01, 2021 at 02:31 pm

The problem on the delay of game was that the play came in late from MLF, 12 seconds left on the play clock IIRC. Therefore when Deguara lined up incorrectly it was too late to get it right.

I don’t like delay of game penalties but Rodgers made the correct call taking the penalty. It’s better than causing a turnover or an injury. In fact taking the penalty prevented the Packers from outsmarting themselves.

Beyond all that this is Deguara’s 2nd season in this offense. He should be pretty assignment sure by now. He has been in the wrong place on a few other plays during this season prior to the Cardinals game. He needs to be on the correct page.
Thanks, Since ‘61

2 points
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Minniman's picture

November 02, 2021 at 02:07 am

Agree - and in addition Since 61' I think that many are confusing 2 issues on that play.

1) Why wasn't Dillon on the field (at least as eye candy for the LB's and S). MLF is guilty as charged on that (and he admitted it).

2) Deguara out of position. Agree, he should have had his head in the playbook during his rehab year.

1 points
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Johnblood27's picture

November 02, 2021 at 01:16 pm

Maybe deGuara was bamboozled by MLFs illusion of complexity on that particular play call?

-1 points
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Guam's picture

November 01, 2021 at 07:32 am

I wouldn't discount the contributions of "Big Dog" in offsetting the loss of Tonyan. He has been effective in the pass game over the last two games. I think it will take all three (Lewis, Deguara , and Daffney) to fill the hole left by Tonyan.

8 points
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PewAuKeeFan's picture

November 01, 2021 at 07:45 am

Deguara will have his moments, but Dominique Dafney is my choice for the break-out tight end.

If Big Dog is the one to break out, that would be ever better. That would raise the team, especially mentally everyone would get a big boost!

0 points
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RCPackerFan's picture

November 01, 2021 at 07:55 am

It sucks that we have lost Tonyan for the year. He is the one TE that can outstretch defenses. He is a true deep threat at TE. To this point he hasn't made a huge impact as a deep threat, but part of that likely is due to having to help the OL more by chipping and blocking more.

So now that Tonyan is out, who will step up?

Have to think Deguara will be one to get more playing time. He is a likely choice to get more time. Can he have similar production? I don't see him being the deep threat that Tonyan was, but he is a guy that can be productive.
Dafney is another guy to watch get more action. Though he isn't the deep threat that Tonyan is, he is a guy that will fill the HB role more. He won't be the deep threat again, but he can be a FB or TE. Watch for him on some wheel route's for bigger plays.
In the redzone watch for Big Dog more. He isn't a guy that is going to get the big plays down field but in short areas he can be very effective.

Don't be surprised if they use more WR's now that Tonyan is out. Lazard is almost like another TE. He is probably as good of a blocker as Tonyan. He has the size. They could then have MVS and Adams out wide then.

The great part about the LaFleur led offenses is that it is versatile. They can change what they do to fit the players they have. He finds what a player is great at and finds ways to use that! That is one major reason why LaFleur's offense has been as good as it has. LaFleur and coaches, deserve way more credit then they get for the offense they have. They simply put players in the best position to succeed.

7 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

November 01, 2021 at 05:50 pm

Maybe see if they can pull Lacosse away from Belichick.

0 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

November 02, 2021 at 07:42 am

Well stated RC

0 points
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dobber's picture

November 02, 2021 at 07:55 am

"He is probably as good of a blocker as Tonyan. He has the size. "

To be fair, Tonyan wasn't a great blocker but he was serviceable. And he wasn't playing a lot of snaps in-line--he ran a lot of routes. So maybe this analogy isn't so much of a stretch. But I think it's one thing to say that Lazard could fill that role in terms of running Tonyan's routes (but who would then run Lazard's routes?), but blocking and beating up DBs is different from chipping DEs and standing up OLBs.

0 points
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mrtundra's picture

November 01, 2021 at 08:27 am

I believe that we still have Kaufusi stashed on our Practice Squad. Aaron Rodgers likes Kaufusi, according to reports from camp. I think Kaufusi gets elevated if any of our other TEs gets injured or put on the Covid list.

3 points
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LambeauPlain's picture

November 01, 2021 at 10:41 am

Kafusi is 6'6" 290 lb converted DE. Big guy. However would be the slowest TE on the Packers if they elevated him... running a 4.9 40. He's only been playing TE since being converted by the Jets in Oct. 2019. I do not think he has ever caught a pass in the NFL and is basically a 30 year old Practice Squad player project.

Dafney has a great opportunity along with Deguara. Dafney is showing he value as a blocker...probably better than Tonyan in that area.

6 points
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PatrickGB's picture

November 02, 2021 at 10:01 am

He would have made an interesting fullback on fourth and one.

1 points
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MarkinMadison's picture

November 01, 2021 at 08:29 am

What really stinks is that about the time the line is getting stronger by getting premier players back from injury, Tonyan goes down, depriving everyone of the opportunity to see if he could repeat last year's stats.

I am a bit worried about Deguara and the penalty. It's not just that Rodger and MLF were playing around, the look on his face said, "I'm confused" to me. It makes me wonder if he is dialed in mentally. Speed-wise he was no burner before the knee injury, but I'm sure he is no slower than Lewis so if he uses his head he ought to be able to find places to make plays.

I threw out links to a couple of articles yesterday with a couple of names of TEs that might be available for a trade. We'll see what tomorrow brings. I don't know if the answer is on the roster or out there waiting to be nabbed in a trade. My gut says you bring in a new guy and it will take him 4-8 games to figure out what is going on.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 01, 2021 at 08:37 am

Deguara isn’t an in line TE and wasn’t drafted to be one. He was a rare beast, a true H back in college. The routes he ran last year when we saw him weren’t TE routes. Arguably Tonyan’s emergence plus injury led to the LaFleur H Back role remaining something of a mystery. Daffney, a former Fullback, played more similarly to a fullback role.

Neither Daffney nor Deguara are in line blockers. They are shorter and lighter and better leading. Can they absorb some of what Tonyan did? Maybe, but the likelihood is that instead we start to see the H Back role incorporated into the offense as an alternative not a replacement.

If anyone takes some of what Tonyan did in a move context, it might be Lazard with Lewis and Davis taking the more traditional TE elements that Tonyan did do. We also have Kaufusi on the PS. He is essentially a Lewis in training, a former DE, very similar in build to Lewis. How good he is in the passing game I do not know, but he’d be a worthy addition if they wanted to use Lewis more in the passing game.

So yes, Deguara may get opportunity, but that would mean the O has adapted its design and emphasis and there are other in house options.

Moreover, It is still possible that we pick up a TE in the protection window as well. That would bring a steep learning curve and likely a delay before full contribution. However, we may have more rapid options; perhaps Funchess is healthy and an option or Nuata, whom they liked before injury in camp. Both remain free agents, so health may make this unrealistic.

8 points
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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

November 01, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Well in college Dafney was a QB and WR, at the same college as Tonyan. He has some speed, reportedly 4.61 in the 40 at his Pro Day (4.58 for Tonyan). He's a couple inches shorter and around the same weight. I think Dafney might be effective in some of the receiving role that Tonyan had last year.

1 points
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dobber's picture

November 01, 2021 at 01:22 pm

I think the key idea is that Tonyan was contributing more as a blocker, and Dafney and Deguara aren't going to hold up in line if they have to play there very much. They're going to be better chipping a DE or picking up a blizter than trying to stand up a DE. This is what they're going to miss out of Tonyan, and Lewis--at his age--isn't going to pick up that many more snaps.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 01, 2021 at 01:53 pm

I like Daffney, but the skill set that he brought in was that of a full back who ran with the ball. Deguara did more in the passing game, but neither are tall, neither are in line types. Both block as a lead runner better than Tonyan. Just not the same type of body or player. There can be some overlap, but it is likely partial.

2 points
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canadapacker's picture

November 01, 2021 at 09:09 am

I agree with what Coldworld has said - but I would also like to add - that TE's still need to be able to block and at least chip well, If Tonyon had one flaw was that he missed too many blocks. Lazard is a beast in blocking and that is one element of the game that Deguara needs to pick up in order to get on the field regularly. The importance of the inline blocking and then leaking out was lately one of Tonyon's biggest resurgance after a slow start this season - and that is what we need. Blocking on those wide receiver screens is also a part of the program and Tonyon missed a few of those blocks last year and got a few holding penalties. It is important that Deguara gets on the field regularly. All 3 guys weigh approximately the same - 240 ish range and therefore weight is not an issue - but willingness and technique might be.
All in all - Deguara's big chance to show why he was drafted is now. And hopefully he can run over a few Db

4 points
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Mike Rossmeier's picture

November 01, 2021 at 04:43 pm

Sternberger really screwed up - he could have been the downfield threat.
They must really have disliked him.

3 points
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stockholder's picture

November 01, 2021 at 06:06 pm

He's doing a good job for Washington. I was against dumping him. Now Rodgers will start from scratch again.

-3 points
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dobber's picture

November 01, 2021 at 06:47 pm

Um...he hasn't logged a single snap for WFT. He's been a healthy scratch every week since they signed him.

3 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 02, 2021 at 06:52 pm

And was waived today I think.

0 points
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ApplesAndTons's picture

November 01, 2021 at 10:13 pm

that's just publicly ignorant, now isn't it? how's his film look in WFT?

1 points
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Rebecca's picture

November 02, 2021 at 02:06 pm

😂

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

November 02, 2021 at 08:36 am

Football success for most depends on seizing your chances. When Sternberger had them he appeared lackadaisical and his blocking attempts were feeble to simply seeming like he didn’t try. He got time because he certainly had some misfortune as well, but his preseason this year pretty much encapsulated why he was let go. It is fair to say that ESB has got more chances, but I suppose one could argue that he’s shown flashes of greater upside. Regardless, time runs out for all players at some point. Had Nuata stayed healthy this pre-season there was some talk that he would have beaten Sternberger out.

0 points
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TOMMY'63's picture

November 01, 2021 at 04:59 pm

let's see hw Deguara plays out.Many of you probably remember after the draft gute and mlf were proclaiming he was some kind of a "phenomenon "they had to get him in 3rd round because others would have taken him.all the expert scouts saying he was a 6th or 7th rounder. Well lets hope he can progress weekly given playing time he might be really good next year gpg

1 points
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PatrickGB's picture

November 02, 2021 at 10:12 am

Like many of the selections in that draft, that one was a head scratcher. But then I don’t have a clue what Matt likes from that position. It’s supposed to be a real tough position to learn and takes time to fit it. Then the guy gets badly hurt. It’s too early to call it a wasted pick so I am going to have to try and figure out what that player and position brings to a team before I can criticize him. Right now I don’t like it. But I felt the same way about other players, some of whom have worked out well.

0 points
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