Ranking the Packers (No. 38): Josiah Deguara
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 38: TE Josiah Deguara (6-2, 238, rookie, Cincinnati)
A week before Matt LaFleur made his coaching debut, Green Bay’s future third-round draft pick had hustled his way onto the coach’s radar.
Just before halftime of Cincinnati’s season-opening game against UCLA on Aug. 29, Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder threw a goal-line interception. The Bruins might have had a game-changing pick-six if not for the hustle of Deguara. A tight end on the far side of the formation, he ran about 70 yards to make a touchdown-saving tackle.
The play caught LaFleur’s eye, and he used it in a video presentation to his team.
“When you watch Josiah, you see such a gritty, tough player,” LaFleur said after the draft. “We actually showed this to our team ironically enough last season in a team meeting when we were talking about effort and grit. There was a play versus UCLA where there was an interception, and just the effort he displayed to run down the defender and make an unbelievable play on the ball, I think it really epitomizes who he is as a football player.”
After catching four passes as a freshman and 11 as a sophomore, his career took off under Denbrock’s supervision. Deguara caught 38 passes for 468 yards and five touchdowns as a junior and 39 passes for 504 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior. He was first-team all-conference as a senior. His 92 career receptions are the most by a tight end in school history – ahead of Travis Kelce and Brent Celek.
At 6-foot-2 3/8 and with 4.72 speed in the 40, Deguara didn’t win with overwhelming physical traits. What made him such a success?
“There’s guys who time really well and don’t play quite as fast,” Bearcats offensive coordinator Mike Dembrock told Packer Central. “What you get with Josiah is a really athletic football player that plays as fast as his times say he plays. That’s not true of everybody. Some guys are clock fast but they’re not football fast. What you have with Josiah is somebody who is both.”
Deguara will vie for snaps at tight end with Jace Sternberger, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan. Losing the offseason practices due to the pandemic won’t help his chances of contributing immediately, but Dembrock pointed to Deguara’s feel for the game as a key asset.
“More than anything, it’s his ability to understand the passing game,” said Dembrock, who is friends with LaFleur. “A lot of guys can learn routes. ‘On this route concept, I do this; on this route concept, I do that.’ Really having an understanding of how to create space for yourself, whether that’s vs. zone or man coverage, is something that I think certain people have a knack for a little bit more than others. He’s one of those guys. He understands where he fits in the pass concepts, he understands how to create space for himself. When you’re able to do that, what that does is send up the antennae of the quarterback that, ‘Here’s a guy that knows how to create space for himself, knows how to separate from people. I can count on this guy to get open.’ That leads to giving yourself more opportunities to catch the ball.”
Why he has a chance: The Packers didn’t re-sign fullback Danny Vitale. It’s easy to envision Deguara filling some of that role. “I think it’s versatility,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said during an offseason Zoom call when asked what he likes about Deguara. “He just lines up in a lot of different places, lines up on the line, off the ball, has the athleticism to move all over the place and insert himself throughout the front line, so I think it’s just one of those things it allows us to do some unique things in the run/play-pass world and also to catch the ball. I think all those things are exciting things.”