Historically, being one hasn’t exactly been glamourous. In decades past, unless your name was Kellen Winslow, Mike Ditka or Ozzie Newsome, people rarely noticed the position. Being a tight end on most teams meant staying home to take on defensive ends and linebackers while sealing the edge on running plays. It meant making a living alongside the tackles and getting about as much thankless appreciation as they did, too.

As the NFL has morphed into a pass-first league, traditional in-line blocking tight ends have started to give way to hybrid tight end/receivers who sport big, tall frames and are athletic, quick and extremely fast.

New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and New England’s Rob Gronkowski both mirror these freakish skill sets. And their respective offenses have become explosive because of the change in the approach of the tight end and the value that offensive coordinators have placed on their role.

Both Graham and Gronkowski are game-breaking receivers first and foremost. And both aren’t known for their blocking prowess.

In Green Bay in years past, for tight ends not named Mark Chmura, Keith Jackson, Bubba Franks or Ed West it meant you were a sixth offensive lineman charged with blocking. And that was it.

Currently in Titletown, when it comes to the tight end spot, most of the talk seems to center around the outspoken Jermichael Finley who has lit up the skies in seasons past.

Understandably so.

When healthy, he is an elite component of the passing game only – in the same echelon as Graham and Gronkowski. When motivated he has the potential to be one of the league’s best tight ends. If he can eliminate the mental errors and build on a solid second half of 2012 he may finally put to rest any lingering concerns Ted Thompson has about drawing up a lucrative, long-term contract that would keep him in green and gold for years to come.

But he doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a willing or effective blocker. And for a Green Bay team looking to become tougher, that could work against him.

That’s where Andrew Quarless comes in.

Early in his collegiate career at Penn State, Quarless saw the field regularly – as a blocker – rarely did he have his number called in critical passing situations. He managed to grab a total of 46 passes for 610 yards and five touchdowns during his first three seasons in Happy Valley. Respectable numbers but far from elite. Quarless blossomed into an NFL prospect during his senior campaign when he nearly doubled both his career catches and yardage, snaring 41 balls for 536 yards while adding three scores.

Green Bay saw enough in the talented player to draft him in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
When Finley went down in early 2010 with what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury, the rookie tight end Quarless stepped up – and then some. His presence, maturity and zeal at the line of scrimmage as an aggressive in-line blocker helped Green Bay win a Super Bowl title. The fact he added 21 catches for 238 yards and a touchdown in the passing game was merely icing on the cake. He seemed poised to become the yin to Finley’s yang within the Packer offense.

The idea was to have Finley run routes and bait the secondary while Quarless filled in as a blocker in sub-packages in the running game. Both would be excellent complements in the play-action offense.
The 2011 season marked Finley’s much-anticipated return. While he was clearly not the same player as he was before his knee injury, Finley remained firmly entrenched as the starter at tight end.

Subsequently it was Quarless who was relegated to performing blocking duties. And he excelled.