You might be asking yourself: What is going on with Robert Tonyan this season?
The answer is everything. Everything is going on with Tonyan so far. We are about a quarter of the way through the season and the Green Bay Packers sit atop the NFC North at 3-1. Tonyan has quietly become a major piece of this year’s offense.
It was going to be pretty hard for Big Bob to replicate his 2020 season. He ended with 52 receptions, 586 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He tied with Travis Kelce for first place for tight end touchdowns and finished in the top half for receptions and yards at the position. The Packers signed him to a second-round tender in the offseason for one year at $3.38 million.
Tonyan will probably be a free agent after next season, so expectations were high that he would have another monster year. So far, he’s been solid but hasn’t matched last year’s stats. Through four games, he has eight receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown. He will obviously get more involved as the season goes on, but at this rate he would only have about 300 yards and four scores.
However, numbers aren’t everything, and Tonyan’s 2020 season is helping the Packers win right now.
No Need to Panic
If Tonyan doesn’t have a monster year last season, the Packers’ offense wouldn’t be as productive right now. It’s all about perspective. Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints was basically a wash. The team played poorly on both ends of the field. Tonyan only had two receptions for eight yards, which was on par with the team that week.
He had a great game the next week against the Detroit Lions. He had three receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown, including this gem on a superhuman throw by Aaron Rodgers.
He had one reception for six yards against the San Francisco 49ers. He also pancaked Nick Bosa to the ground. The video is at the end of the article. (That’s called a tease!)
This week, he had two receptions for eight yards. There is no need to panic. This Packers offense has already shown that they spread the ball around. Who predicted that Randall Cobb would have two touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Davante Adams would only have 64 yards? Marquez Valdes-Scantling finally got to see the ball against San Francisco and got a score before hitting the injured list. Adams had 12 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown.
Tonyan was lucky to have a big game against Detroit. It was basically the Aaron Jones show. Jones had 67 yards for three receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown, but the looks and receptions are going to get to the talented tight end, eventually.
How It Helps the Packers’ Offense
Having Tonyan’s 2020 season in the back of the minds of every Packers opponent helps Green Bay because they know they have to cover Tonyan even if it opens up other offensive weapons. Forcing a linebacker to run with him or dropping someone else from the secondary helps a receiver or running back succeed. If a linebacker is dropping back or following Tonyan, that means Jones can catch a screen pass for a big gain. If they drop a safety or defensive back, that opens a deep threat like Adams or Allen Lazard. Or Cobb and Amari Rodgers in the slot position. And if you have your better coverage players on Tonyan, the other tight ends suddenly have a better chance for a reception. Marcedes Lewis and Josiah Deguara can line up on the other side and disrupt the defense because they are worried about No. 85.
The 27-year-old from Illinois is going to have a great season even if his numbers aren’t close to last year’s. The target on his back for opponents creates a chance for others to succeed. And if his numbers are similar and defenses ease up on him, you will see games where Tonyan scores two or three touchdowns again.
So far, the red zone has been dominated by Jones and the top receivers. Aaron Rodgers even had a rushing touchdown against Pittsburgh. That won’t be the case all year, and Tonyan will have plenty of chances. Quietly or loudly, he’ll be a key part of the Green Bay Packers’ offense.
And let’s not forget about the man’s blocking.