The 2011 NFL season was labeled the "Year of the Tight End" by some football experts and fans with players like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham lighting up the highlight reels and filling the stat sheet. Tight ends were being utilized like never before, as teams were taking advantage of matchups over the middle and NFL rules being more friendly to the offensive side of the ball.
One name that was not mentioned as much in 2011 is Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, and rightfully so. Finley put up career numbers last season, but in comparison to Gronkowski, Graham and Aaron Hernandez, Finley is lagging behind.
But, 2012 will be a new season and the odds are in Finley's favor to make this season a career year.
Finley has the physical talent and the makeup to be the best tight end in the league and that has never been questioned. He is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
His speed and size make it difficult to have him covered. He can line up in the slot and on the edge, forcing cornerbacks to try and cover him which means advantage Finley.
Finley now has the mindset and motivation to go out and be the best, as well. Instead of the Packers placing the franchise tag on Finley, they locked him up for two more years. The 25-year-old can set himself up for an even bigger payday.
In addition to the contract, Finley recognizes that his play last season did not match the expectations for him. He had a problem with drops (11) last season, warranting boos by the fans. He knows that he has to produce to get the fans off his back and a new contract in a couple years.
The setup for the 2012 season is too good to let slip away. Finley plays in a pass-first offense. He has the 2011 NFL MVP throwing to him in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who spreads the ball around very well. And, he has the confidence in himself, from his teammates, his head coach Mike McCarthy and from the organization that it is his time to shine.
Finley sees that the glory days are here to stay in Green Bay. The only thing he needed was another chip on his broad shoulders to prove all doubters wrong.