Packers TE Jermichael Finley did look like a player who was serious about realizing his vast potential during the second half of last season. At midseason, he’d dropped seven passes in the first eight games, his agent had questioned via social media quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ leadership abilities, and Finley, never one to censor himself, had continued his outspoken ways, to the chagrin of the organization.
But then, Finley flipped the switch. He wound up breaking the franchise single-season record for receptions by a tight end (61), and he didn’t drop a single pass over the final six games (including playoffs). Tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said Finley’s drop percentage early in the season was “about 30 percent,” and during the second half of the season, it was down to 6 percent.
Not coincidentally, Finley’s relationship with Rodgers was improving during that time, as the pair began spending the night before each game talking about the game plan, how Finley should run his routes and life in general. The connection made a big difference, as Finley caught 26 passes in the final five regular-season games and also had a breakthrough day in Detroit on Nov. 18, when his three receptions included a touchdown and a critical 40-yard catch-and-run to set up the game-winning score.
“He seems like he’s really dialed in. as far as expectations go, I didn’t set any expectations last year, we just wanted to continue to improve each and every week, and that’s the same mentality we’re taking this year – let’s get better, let’s find a starting point and let’s get better each and every week. We’re capable of doing great things,” TE coach Jerry Fontenot said. “I think we definitely had a year to grow off of last year and the way we finished off the year, I’m happy with where we’re starting. But again, we have a long ways to go.”
Finley has a tantalizing skill set, but drops have been a serious problem throughout his career and he tends to put the blame on some mysterious lack of chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. But over the last seven games of 2012, Finley averaged 4.6-57-.14, which equates to TE10 numbers over the course of a full season. It sounds as if those weekly meetings with Rodgers have helped. HC Mike McCarthy said that Finley was a 'different man' after the team's Week 10 bye, so Finley's strong finish may translate to 2013.