The Invisible Man
Other than dropping a sure touchdown pass in his first game as a Packer, a 24-16 loss to the Lions on Oct. 29, All-Pro tight end Keith Jackson has been about as invisible as a 6'2", 258-pound man can possibly be. He's the phantom of the Brett Favre opera. Mark Chmura, who's having a bang-up season, sees about twice as much playing time as Jackson.
But Jackson, who didn't report until mid-October after the Packers stood firm in their refusal to negotiate a long-term deal, is realistic about the situation. "I have not earned a starting spot," he says. "I wish we could go to a two-tight-end offense and get rid of those little receivers."
Jackson's willingness to accept the backup role has defused what could have been a volatile situation. Acquired from the Dolphins in a March trade, he came into this season having caught more passes (388) and scored more touchdowns (38) than any tight end in the league over the last seven years. But while Jackson was holding out, Chmura, a fourth-year player, was putting up some impressive numbers of his own. Chmura, who had 16 receptions in his first three seasons, had 26 catches before Jackson saw his first action, in the Packers' eighth game. In Sunday's 24-10 win over the Bengals, Chmura had career highs in receptions (seven) and yards (109) while also catching his sixth TD pass of the season. For the year he has 44 receptions for 572 yards. Jackson, meanwhile, has eight catches for 81 yards.
"Keith and Mark have both handled it well," says tight ends coach Andy Reid. "Keith came in and said, 'This guy's pretty good. Just line me up on the other side.' "
Jackson's presence has resulted in more two-tight-end sets. "Both guys are doing a good job," Reid says. "Keith has picked up our system the fastest of any player I've ever been around. I wouldn't trade jobs with any other tight ends coach in the league."