Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley dominated the Chicago Bears in Week 3 on his way to the first three touchdown day of his young NFL career. After injuries delayed his arrival, Finley is finally emerging as one of the top tight ends in the game as many thought he would.
On Sunday, the Bears had absolutely no answer for Finley as he brought in seven catches for 85 yards and the three scores. It didn't matter where Finley was lining up or against who, he was winning the individual battles.
With the Bears highly noted for their Cover-2 defense, it was anticipated that Aaron Rodgers would be able to exploit the defense by finding Finley between the seams. Finley not only worked the seams, but did damage outside the numbers as well.
Finley's potential has never been in question, but the biggest knock on Finley thus far in his career has been his inability to stay healthy as he has missed significant time throughout the first three years of his career. With good health, Finley is one of the most athletic pass catchers in the NFL.
With the Packers facing third-and-9 and holding on to a 20-10 lead early in the fourth quarter against the Bears, Rodgers looked at the defense, saw they were playing zone, immediately snapped the ball and fired up a perfectly placed ball to Finley in the end zone. Finley's 6'5" frame provide Rodgers with an incredible amount of space to place the ball.
Over the last season and early this year, the Packers have suffered from not finishing drives in the red zone. With the continued emergence of Finley, this may no longer be a problem for the Mike McCarthy-led offense as all three of Rodgers touchdown passes to Finley were inside the red zone.
The amount of attention Finley requires from the defense also allows the other play-makers on the Packers' offense to get better looks. With Greg Jennings and Finley, Rodgers can now go to either with comfort and ease.
If a team is able to somehow contain both Jennings and Finley, the Packers throw out weapons including Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb. The emergence of Finley paired with the quality of Jennings enables the rest of these players to receive less attention from the defense.
Finley's combination of size, speed and power make him a threat wherever he is lined up on the field. The Packers coaching staff has the freedom to line him up as a traditional tight end or split out wide like a wide receiver.
If Finley is able to continue his development and just stay healthy, Finley will not only become a top tight end, but one of the top receiving threats in the NFL. Everything Finley needs to fulfill his potential is right in front of him.
A free agent after this season, the Packers will be forced to decide whether or not they want to throw big money at the tight end. There are definite concerns with Finley's ability to stay healthy, but with more games like his Week 3 performance, the Packers may take the risk.