Packers: Prepare for the Robert Tonyan breakout season

Green Bay Packers, Robert Tonyan - Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packers Vs Bucs Nfc Champ 2268 012421 Wag
Green Bay Packers, Robert Tonyan - Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Packers Vs Bucs Nfc Champ 2268 012421 Wag /

Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan has taken the road less traveled en route to becoming a starting caliber player in the NFL.

The former wide receiver-turned-tight end out of Indiana State was a multi-year project — one that was worth the time invested. The Robert Tonyan you see today had to earn everything he’s been given. As an UDFA he had to first earn his way onto the roster, then up the depth chart one spot at a time until he finally had the chance to prove himself.

Last season, Tonyan enjoyed a mini-breakout in his first full season as a starter — a role he earned in camp and never let go of. He would go on to post a stat line of 54 catches for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns, and most importantly zero dropped passes. Not bad for a player nobody viewed as a core member of the offense entering 2020.

The argument could be made that Tonyan was a product of an Aaron Rodgers/Matt LaFleur-led offense that excelled in scheming players open. Which is a fair argument, but you can’t argue with the efficiency.

He did everything that was asked of him last season given his opportunities. Hard to do better than catching every ball thrown your way. And while it’s not realistic to expect that of him week in and week out, it certainly speaks to how dependable of a target he’s been.

Tonyan enters 2021 in a contract year, and I fully expect him to take another step in his development. One that involves him becoming a more viable weapon in the Packers offense, and someone that opposing teams have to further game-plan for.

Coach LaFleur has cited his desire to get Big Bob Tonyan more involved in the Packers offense, and he’s done everything to deserve that chance. The Packers front office needs to decide what kind of financial commitment they’re willing to make with Tonyan beyond this season.

So, the added responsibility and targets should tell them whether or not he’s someone they want to commit to long-term and build around on offense, or move on from in favor of cap savings.

On just 59 targets last season (24th among tight ends), Tonyan:

  • Led all tight ends in receiving touchdowns (11)
  • Recorded 54 catches with zero drops
  • 13th among tight ends in both receptions/yards

With expanded opportunity, Tonyan has the chance to put himself in the discussion as one of the league’s top 5-8 tight ends.

If he’s able to do that, he’s going to enjoy a nice payday, whether it be from the cap-strapped Packers or another team in free agency. Either way, I’m forecasting a breakout season that should give the Packers clarity on the tight end’s future.