Green Bay Packers tight end Josiah Deguara hasn’t always had an easy time of it during his NFL career. He has dealt with injuries, a crowded depth chart and the effects of the pandemic during his first two NFL season. Now heading into year three, the former University of Cincinnati star hopes to take advantage of a big opportunity to make his mark on the offense.
The Packers selected Deguara in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It was the second straight year the Packers added a tight end in the third round of the draft. Packers head coach Matt LaFleur was excited about Deguara and indicated he was thinking about the various ways Deguara could fit into the offense.
“I just think the versatility he showed as a player,” LaFleur said during Deguara’s rookie training camp. “You could definitely see his ability to run routes. We just thought he’d be a good movable piece whether we have him in the backfield or on the line of scrimmage or you could even put him in some positions where he’s pretty much a wide receiver. We just like the versatility he brings.”
Unfortunately, Deguara didn’t have much of a chance to showcase that versatility during his rookie season. OTAs were all virtual and the preseason was canceled due to the pandemic. All rookies including Deguara had a tougher time making the jump from college to the NFL as a result.
Once the 2020 season started, Deguara played in two of the team’s first four games before suffering a season-ending injury. He caught one pass for 12 yards in those two games while playing only 31 total snaps on offense.
Deguara managed to return in time to start training camp in 2021. Jace Sternberger, who was drafted a year before was suspended for the first two games of the regular season and then was cut by the Packers which gave Deguara more of a chance to take on a bigger role.
Midway through the season, starting tight end Robert Tonyan suffered a season-ending knee injury which gave Deguara a chance to become the team’s primary pass-catching tight end.
In 16 games last season, Deguara caught 25 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns. His most memorable play came in the regular-season finale against Detroit when he caught a short pass from quarterback Jordan Love and rambled 62 yards for a touchdown with 4:49 left in the game. The touchdown gave the Packers a 30-27 lead.
Deguara did line up in different places throughout the season. He could play a traditional tight end or be an H-back or a fullback. While he has yet to prove himself a downfield threat, Deguara managed to show he can be a reliable receiving target. He had a much better feel for the offense by the end of the season and showed he belonged.
Former tight ends coach Justin Outten said he liked the way Deguara was progressing over the course of his first full season in the NFL. In December of 2021, Outten explained, “I feel like he’s just gotten progressively better…mentally, he’s just really advanced in that room.”
With training camp about a month away, Deguara has an opportunity to make an impact on the offense this season. We are still unsure when Tonyan will return to the lineup. He may not be ready to practice at the start of training camp and may not be able to play right away when the season gets underway. This gives Deguara the chance to show the coaching staff what he can do.
Tonyan is also playing on a one-year, prove-it deal. If Deguara can show he is more than capable of becoming the team’s top receiving tight end, the Packers would have less urgency to re-sign Tonyan. Deguara can also prove himself a reliable blocking tight end which may allow him to take over that role from Marcedes Lewis if the veteran retires after the 2022 campaign.
Deguara can do a lot of different things on the field. Last year during training camp, LaFleur explained, “He’s just such a savvy, smart football player. There’s so many things he does that are tough to coach.”
The 2022 season will be the second full season of Deguara’s NFL career and a key point in his development. If he makes a jump this year and reaches more of his full potential, he has the chance to establish himself as a key part of the Packers offense as a blocker and pass catcher. If he fails to step up, he could be viewed as a role player who is a replaceable cog in the offense.
The Packers are optimistic Deguara has a lot more to show. Now it’s his chance to show it.
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