Through the first six games of the Packers season, Deguara was averaging 20.5 snaps per game. In the last three, he has a grand total of only 23 offensive snaps, including just five this past Sunday.
To a degree, I would guess that Deguara somewhat being phased out of the offense as the season progressed may have always been a part of the plan with the Packers spending a second-round pick on Luke Musgrave, a third-round pick on Tucker Kraft, and claiming rookie Ben Sims off waivers following roster cutdowns.
However, I’m not so sure that it was part of the plan to have Deguara’s playing time fall of cliff so quickly either. This result is likely a partial product of the progression that the team has seen from both Musgrave and Kraft, but also the play of Deguara.
For the most part, Deguara has been a non-factor in the passing game, catching eight targets, four of which came in one game, at 8.1 yards per catch. As a blocker, which is his primary responsibility, Deguara ranks 50th out of 83 eligible tight ends in PFF’s run-blocking grade, while in pass protection, he ranks 81st.
On special teams, he ranks 44th out of 51 Packers players in overall grade, and a missed blocking assignment that led to Anders Carlson’s extra point attempt being blocked in Pittsburgh.
“We gotta get our eyes on our work and make sure that we punch the near shoulder of the widest rusher,” coach Matt LaFleur said about the blocked extra point.
No, PFF’s grades are not the be-all-end-all, but if a player is performing well, they often reflect that. And the same can be said for poor performances as well. Deguara’s main playing time now comes when the Packers want a fullback on the field.
With such a young group of tight ends, a position that comes with a steep learning curve, Deguara was never going to be the answer for the Packers this season. It’s clear, that they wanted Musgrave and Kraft to see as much playing time as possible and were going to live with the inconsistencies that came with relying on so much inexperience at this position. With that said, I’m sure that there was some hope that Deguara would be able to provide at least some stability through this transition.
In recent weeks, the offense is really starting to feel the downfield impact of Musgrave in the passing game with four explosive pass catches over the last two games. Both Musgrave and Kraft have also progressed as blockers, playing a key role in an improved run game for the Packers.
“They’ve improved a lot,” said Adam Stenavich of Musgrave and Kraft. “I think that’s one of the biggest things as we’ve gotten going, I think our run game has gotten better and better every week. They have just as much to do with that as anybody with just how they are improving. They still have a long ways to go. There’s no doubt about that, but I do see a lot of strides those guys are making. Just holding down the edge and being physical.”
Along with Deguara’s role shrinking, it looks like Sims’ role has as well. Early in the season, he was ahead of Kraft in terms of snap counts, but played just five snaps against Los Angeles and didn’t play at all versus the Steelers.
Deguara is currently playing out the final year of his rookie deal, and will be a free agent during the 2024 offseason.