Jermichael Finley was once a dominant player in the National Football League. After all, 6'5" 247-pound players with incredible hands do not grow on trees. Finley is rare and even though he didn't look it last season, he has the talent to be as good as any tight end in football.
Despite the tremendous success the Green Bay Packers had as a team in 2011, it was not a banner year for Finley at all. He has cited chemistry issues with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his desire to play more "freestyle" in 2012, but the bottom line is that Finley has elite skills. He just needs to utilize them.
The first step in fulfilling his potential is getting on the same page with Rodgers, but he is confident the two will fix their chemistry issues this season telling Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com:
If you go over the years, I’ve done well, we had an offseason program, we had minicamps, we had training camps. So, we had three processes that we were going through for us to get the chemistry. This year, I feel it and it’s going to be a good one. I guarantee it.
Finley's 2011 receiving numbers were not terrible but they weren't great either. The freakishly talented tight end hauled in 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns. Surprisingly, his yardage total ranked 13th in the league amongst tight ends yet he ranked third in touchdowns behind only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham.
Even though his numbers were solid, he never displayed the streak of dominance that he did in 2010 before his season was cut short due a knee injury. In five games that season, Finley was targeted 26 times and caught 21 of them for an amazing catch percentage of 80.8 percent. He also turned the 21 receptions into 301 yards, good for an 11.6 yards per target average, ranking second in the NFL that season among tight ends
Last season, Finley caught only 55 of 92 targets for a catch percentage of 59.8 percent, a very low number for him because even in 2009, the first season he burst onto the scene for the Packers, he caught 55 of 71 targeted passes for a catch percentage of 77.5 percent over 13 games.
Since Finley caught 78 percent of his passes during the previous two seasons and posted 10.1 yards per target average, last season seems to be an anomaly, not the norm.
Let us not forget that Finley was recovering from a knee injury that forced him to miss the last 11 games in 2010. And if that did not slow him down, his contract status did, even if he denies it.
Due to the injury, the Packers understandably wanted to let the season play out. Because of this, Finley seemed to put undue pressure on himself to perform, which contributed to an unusually high number of 11 dropped passes.
Thanks to his less than stellar season, the Packers did not reward Finley with a mega contract. Instead, the two sides came to a compromise, agreeing to a two-year $15 million deal.
The deal pays Finley as a Top-10 tight end, while also leaving the door open for a huge payday after the 2013 season, giving him plenty of incentive to prove his worth over the next two seasons.
If he can produce the breakout season we have all been waiting for, helping Green Bay win a second Super Bowl championship in the process, then Finley will finally be paid and recognized as an elite player in the NFL.
Finley has proven he can play at a high level; it just needs to be sustained for an entire 16-game season. He is motivated, focused on football and confident in his chemistry with Rodgers.
So sit back and enjoy, Packers fans. His evolution into one of the NFL's elite tight ends is about to be complete.