Green Bay Packers: Jace Sternberger Impresses Working w/ Starters

Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger (87) and tight end Robert Tonyan (85) participate in organized team activities Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packersota 0602211084djp
Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger (87) and tight end Robert Tonyan (85) participate in organized team activities Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.Apc Packersota 0602211084djp /

The first two NFL seasons for Jace Sternberger, a former third-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, have not gone as hoped. He’s underperformed when on the field and also missed time due to injuries, as well as spending part of 2020 on the reserve/COVID list.

Even this season, he is going to miss the first two games of the regular season, serving a suspension.

The end result is that we’ve seen very little of Sternberger in regular-season action. According to PFF ($$), Sternberger has only 301 career NFL snaps where he’s recorded 15 receptions at 8.6 yards per catch along with two touchdowns.

Couple that inexperience with the tight end position being a very difficult position to transition to at the NFL level, and that’s a recipe for a slow start.

Sternberger was already a fairly raw tight end prospect coming out of Texas A&M with only one year of starting experience in college. At the NFL level, with tight ends having to be both proficient route runners and blockers, it’s not uncommon to see it take a year or two before they really hit their stride—which means it’s still too early to give up on Sternberger.

And we saw why during Thursday’s fully padded practice.

Sternberger saw his fair share of reps with the starting offense — a good sign — and showcased his hands by making a one-handed grab down the sideline, as well as his ability as a route runner by consistently winning his one-on-one reps.

He would also show off what he can do in space, picking up a large chunk of yards after the catch on a pass in the flat. We’ve seen this wiggle and YAC ability from Sternberger often over the first week of training camp practices.

It’s this skill-set and fit in the Matt LaFleur offense with his ability to move around the formation that led to GM Brian Gutekunst spending a third-round pick on Sternberger back in 2019. As Gutey put it, he’s a “matchup problem.”

"“The flexibility he gives us. Obviously, he has a lot of speed, he can stretch the seam, he’s a matchup problem for linebackers and safeties. Matt put him in the backfield, moved him around a little bit,” Gutekunst said via Packers Wire. “Jace can be one of those guys, as he develops, he can play a lot of different places and be a matchup problem.”"

Of course, for Sternberger at this point in his career, it’s all about consistency and staying healthy. It’s great to see him have this kind of success and doing so against the starting defense, but we need to see it on a regular basis, and he needs to be available.

Not to mention that we all know how important blocking is to the tight end position in this LaFleur offense, and he will need to continue improving in that area as well.

Robert Tonyan is likely going to be the most targeted tight end once again this season. While Josiah Deguara will play a large role as the team’s H-back and Marcedes Lewis has a defined role as primarily a blocking tight end.

So for Sternberger, he is going to need more practices like this one to earn additional playing time. But for a Green Bay Packers team that uses two tight end sets relatively often, the opportunity is certainly there.

Add in the uncertainty around Tonyan’s future beyond 2021 as a free agent as well as Lewis, who is nearing the end of his career, and Sternberger can lay the foundation in 2021 for a much more significant role in 2022.

But it all starts on the practice field. Sternberger will look to build off Thursday’s performance during the remaining practices and the Green Bay Packers’ upcoming preseason games.