Just as the overall Green Bay Packers’ offense is still a work in progress under new head coach Matt LaFleur, so is the tight end position as the team searches for more consistent production. One thing that we knew about LaFleur prior to the season was that we would see more tight end usage, and so far we have.
Jimmy Graham has already equaled his touchdown total from 2018 and Marcedes Lewis is seeing the field much more frequently this season. Even Robert Tonyan who was an afterthought under Mike McCarthy is averaging nearly 19 offensive snaps per game this season according to Pro Football Focus.
However, as the Green Bay Packers are preparing for the Dallas Cowboys in week five, it’s time that LaFleur gives Tonyan a larger role in this offense.
Tonyan is easily the least experienced out of the three tight ends but he is also the most dynamic by a wide margin and that is exactly what this Packers’ passing-game needs at the moment. Outside of Davante Adams, the production from the rest of the receiving core and Graham as pass-catchers has been quite sporadic.
Graham is coming off of a game against Philadelphia where he caught six passes for 61 yards with a touchdown, but it took Aaron Rodgers force-feeding him the ball. In fact, the two games prior Graham had only one target and no receptions.
At this point in his career, Graham doesn’t have the ability to separate from defenders like he used to and he just doesn’t consistently make the catches that he should be making, which is exactly what he was brought into Green Bay to do.
And if we are being honest, he is just a poor fit for the LaFleur offense. LaFleur wants his tight ends to be just as effective blocking as they are pass-catchers, but as we’ve seen multiple times from Graham, blocking has never been a strong suit of his.
So what this means for the Packers is that when Graham is on the field, defenses know that it is likely going to be a passing play. However, when LaFleur tries to mix it up and keep Graham inline as a blocker, well, we all know how that usually goes.
While Tonyan’s skill set is still a bit raw as a converted college receiver, he can bring that big playmaking ability to this offense that Graham just can’t do anymore. Tonyan has just seven receptions in his short career but he is averaging a whopping 17.4 yards per catch including a touchdown.
As a blocker, Tonyan is still going to have some misses here and there but after spending a portion of the offseason working out with San Francisco 49ers’ star tight end George Kittle, there was a noticeable difference in his blocking ability this summer. Also not to be forgotten is that Tonyan is a high-effort player and that coupled with his athleticism can simply make him a more effective blocker.
Now, by no means do I expect Graham and Tonyan’s snap counts to flip flop as Rodgers and LaFleur are still big fans of Graham. But my hope is that we see Tonayn getting more reps as a blocker as well as more opportunities in the passing game where he can give Rodgers another weapon in the open field as well as in the red zone.