The big play from the Green Bay Packers’ preseason opener was a 34-yard connection between quarterback Jordan Love and tight end Jace Sternberger, but while coaches were excited about what it showed in Love, the play wasn’t necessarily emblematic of the player on the receiving end.
The Packers are still hoping for far more consistency out of Sternberger, a third-round pick in 2019 who has played sparingly during his first two seasons and is still fighting to get into the groove within the offense.
“That one play doesn’t really describe the player. It’s more consistently what you’re putting in, day in and day out. His consistency, it’s been sporadic,” Packers tight ends coach Justin Outten said Sunday. “Whether it’s still getting used to the playbook or feeling around the line of scrimmage. He’s still having some up and down days. With the extra reps he’s getting, he’s gotta handle it a little bit better, in a sense of more video and doing the extra things outside. That’s all fixable, those things can come along.”
Outten said Sternberger has led the tight end room in reps throughout training camp, and the team is trying to get him more confident in the game both in the classroom and on the practice field.
“The confidence in it. It’s sitting in a room and understanding what to do but then going out and getting it performed,” Outten said.
Sternberger has 12 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown over his first 18 NFL games. He’s been on the field for only 262 total offensive snaps.
And he’s no higher than fourth or fifth on the depth chart at tight end during his third training camp in Green Bay.
With a two-game suspension looming to start the regular season, Sternberger can’t afford to miss a chance to impress on the field this month. He needs to stack as many positive factors on his side for when the suspension lifts in Week 3 and the Packers need to make a decision on his roster status.
There’s no better time than now.
Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan aren’t likely to play during the preseason, and Josiah Deguara is being eased back after missing most of last season with an ACL injury. The door is wide open for Sternberger, and another opportunity is coming during Saturday’s preseason game against the New York Jets.
“This is a huge preseason for him, with these three games, and just being the guy and getting as much reps as possible in these live settings. He can grow from some lessons he learned (on Saturday night) and moving forward here,” Outten said.