Packers: It’s Been a Slow Start for Jace Sternberger, but Don’t Panic

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 20: Jace Sternberger #87 of the Green Bay Packers drops a pass in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 20: Jace Sternberger #87 of the Green Bay Packers drops a pass in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2020 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

It was a quiet camp, and it’s been a slow start to the season for Green Bay Packers’ TE, Jace Sternberger, but there is no need to panic.

The Green Bay Packers’ breakout player in 2020; that is a phrase that we heard quite a bit this offseason when discussing second-year tight end, Jace Sternberger.

Sternberger would miss the first part of his rookie season and although upon his return, he didn’t make much noise in the passing game, what we saw was a versatile player, a willing blocker, and despite the lack of receptions, someone who can get open in the passing game.

Back at the beginning of the year, GM Brian Gutekunst called Sternberger a “matchup problem,” referencing his ability to line up anywhere on the field, his speed, and the variety of roles that he can play in this Matt LaFleur offense. When Marcedes Lewis was asked about Jace, he told reporters, “he’s going to be a good one.”

So naturally, with the tight end playing a significant role in this offense, Sternberger was expected to be a big factor this season.

However, while several other young players emerged during training camp, we heard very little about Jace. And while without live practices or preseason games, it’s difficult to gauge how a player is truly performing, Andy Herman of Packer Report, who attended most practices, had this to say about Sternberger:

"“One player who you did not hear from on Sunday and haven’t heard from for almost all of training camp, is Jace Sternberger. It’s been a very slow start to practices for Sternberger, who many (myself included) expected to have a breakout second season.This isn’t to say that Sternberger won’t have a breakout season, or that he can’t be a major factor for Green Bay moving forward, but he’s done next to nothing noticeable throughout camp so far. He did have a really nice block a few practices back, and a catch down the sidelines from Jordan Love during the last practice at Lambeau, but that’s about it.It’ll be very interesting to see how Green Bay uses their tight ends this season, but if Jace Sternberger wants to see more of the field, he’s going to need to start making some more plays.”"

Unfortunately, through the first two weeks of the season, Sternberger hasn’t been making more plays, and he hasn’t seen much playing time either. Each week he has taken the fewest amount of snaps out of Green Bay’s active tight end group and totaled only 28.

In the passing game, Sternberger is yet to record his first catch of the season and has some brutal drops. Although one of them won’t show up on the stat sheet since the play was negated by a holding penalty, it will show up on film. For a player fighting for playing time and opportunities, that’s certainly not how you earn more snaps or the confidence of Aaron Rodgers.

Now, I will point out that Sternberger has had a good showing as a run-blocker, which is an important aspect of the LaFleur offense from the tight end position. However, he’s expected to be much more than just that.

While it’s certainly been a disappointing training camp and start to the season, we should be nowhere near hitting the panic button. For one, it’s only been two games, but more importantly, even in Year 2, the transition from college to the NFL for tight ends is a challenging one.

In an article by Jamison Hensley of ESPN, he mentions that since 2003, there have been only two rookie tight ends to surpass 600 receiving yards during that first season. Even in their second seasons, there is little guarantee that tight ends are going to take that big step forward.

Earlier this week, Ross Uglem of Packer Report made a similar observation in regards to Miami Dolphins’ third-year tight end, Mike Gesicki – a former second-round pick – while also pointing out that after missing a good portion of his first year, that Sternberger is still essentially a rookie:

Like anything, there is a myriad of reasons why tight ends struggle early on in their careers, but a big factor is the numerous responsibilities that they have. Tight ends have to know assignments and blocking technique like an offensive lineman, while also having to know the ins and outs of route running like a receiver.

In Hensley’s article, he goes on to say that a coach told former Baltimore Ravens’ tight end, Todd Heap, that after the quarterback, the tight end should know more about the offense than any other player on the field. He would add that Heap was once chewed out by a coach because someone wasn’t lined up correctly. This may not be the expectation for every tight end, but it is for the good ones.

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In a perfect world, would Sternberger be making big plays each week? Absolutely, but more often than not, that’s not realistic as tight ends take time to develop. Keep in mind, Sternberger only has 127 career snaps as of now. That’s right, one hundred and twenty-seven career snaps. So while yes, he had a quiet camp and it’s been a slow start to the regular season, there is no need to panic.