The Green Bay Packers probably overdrafted Josiah Deguara in 2020 because he fits so well in Matt LaFleur’s scheme. He was expected to go off the board in the sixth round two years ago, but the Packers selected him in the third, with the expectation that he could play a significant role as a tight end and h-back. San Francisco 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk was Green Bay’s blueprint for him on passing plays.
But a series of unfortunate events made the transition from college to the NFL difficult for Deguara. Tight end is also a position that naturally requires more time and effort to adjust to the pro game. This year, he’s finally having the first full offseason and training camp to prepare to get a bigger role in the offense.
In 2020, Deguara’s offseason would be different anyway because the draft preparation and timing affect how players practice. But everything got stranger thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. There were no offseason practices, no preseason games, and the league reduced training camp for all teams. Everyone mentions quarterback Jordan Love when talking about the effects the 2020 offseason had on rookies, but Deguara had to handle the same issues.
His first season ended in Week 5 after he suffered a serious ACL injury. Besides losing games and practice time during the season, Deguara had to rehab throughout the 2021 offseason program. He had some flashes during the season, including a 62-yard touchdown catch-and-run after a screen pass from Jordan Love against the Detroit Lions in Week 18, but he hasn’t been able to offer consistent production.
“To have my first offseason, it has felt great,” said Deguara during OTAs. “I’ve been able to work on things I want to work on. Last offseason, I was just trying to get my knee right. This offseason, to be able to work on stuff that I took from the season, learn from it, and get better from it has been a tremendous opportunity. I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”
Deguara plays an essential role in the Packers’ offense. Matt LaFleur uses three types of tight ends — classic receivers, blockers, and the h-back archetype. The Packers have invested in Deguara the most, especially to execute the h-back role. Dominique Dafney is the other option, but they use him more as a blocker coming out of the backfield. He only had 60 receiving yards in two seasons with the Packers.
Deguara had 245 yards and two touchdowns on 25 receptions last year. Those are not bad numbers for a backup tight end, but the Packers drafted Deguara in the third round to be more than that. Now, with a potential new offense being shaped, there is room for growth.
“Davante (Adams is) gone,” said Deguara.
All the balls he got were much deserved. There’s an opportunity for guys to step up, and I’m gonna try to be one of those guys. For me, it’s just my overall game. I learned a lot from this last season. Being able to play 16, 17 games, only missing one game the whole time last season, and it was in the beginning. I went through a lot of ups and downs, and I was able to learn what going through a full NFL season was like mentally, physically, and everything. I’m taking every lesson I learned and I’ll be better because of it.
The two touchdowns Deguara scored last season were good indications of what he can be to the offense. The second one, against the Lions, was the perfect encapsulation of why the Packers drafted him out of the University of Cincinnati. Deguara was smart enough to put himself in an excellent position to receive the screen in a favorable spot. He was also physical and fast enough to explore the defensive holes and get yards after the reception.
The touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11 also showed that Deguara can be more than that. His ability to receive downfield is also an important aspect of his game. The tight end was smart to adjust the route and be ready to receive when Aaron Rodgers got out of the pocket.
The Packers will have plenty of targets to go to any player who develops. Josiah Deguara’s personal timeline may also make him a candidate to be the best version of himself in 2022. If the tight end achieves the level the Packers expect, his role will be vital for Matt LaFleur’s scheme.