Green Bay Packers training camp preview: Robert Tonyan and Tight Ends
GREEN BAY, Wis. – How will the Green Bay Packers replace Davante Adams production? A healthy Robert Tonyan would help. With the first practice of training camp set for July 27, here’s a look at the tight ends.
Packers Tight Ends Depth Chart
Robert Tonyan was unable to capitalize on his 2020 rebounding season due to a torn ACL suffered mid-season in 2021. Thus his production dropped from 52 receptions for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns to 18 receptions for 204 yards and two touchdowns. The last two seasons, he has 70 receptions and a drop. Other than Randall Cobb, no player on the list has caught more Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes than Tonyan (15).
Marcedes Lewis is a player at heart and soul, appreciated for his courage and his leadership. The oldest tight end in the NFL, he remains a top tackle tackle. He can still catch too. He caught 23 of 28 targets for 214 yards last season to help fill the void created by Tonyan’s injury. His fumble completely drained the Packers of their early mojo in the NFC Championship Game. During the OTAs, he said, “If you care, you’re going to have nightmares. This is exactly what happened. Watching the playoffs unfold, it’s like, ‘Damn, this is a game I wish I had back.’
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Tyler Davis took on the role of Tonyan in the offseason and showed some potential. A 2020 sixth-round pick, the Packers removed him from the Colts’ practice squad in late September. He played in 14 games — 88 of his 121 snaps came in the past four games — and caught four passes for 35 yards. Davis started his college career as a quarterback, as did Tonyan. “I have tons of Bobby clips on my iPad that I watch every day,” he said in May.
Josiah Deguara is a tight end in name only. A third-round pick in 2020, his value is to play here, there and everywhere. Coming back from a torn ACL that ruined his rookie season, he had 367 snaps last season. According to PFF, he played 162 snaps as a traditional tight end, 108 as a slot receiver, 53 as a wide receiver and 44 running back. He caught 25 of 33 passes (75.8%) for 245 yards (9.8 average) and two touchdowns. The highlight of his season was a 62-yard catch-up touchdown in Detroit.
Dominique Daffney was limited to 10 games last season. He caught two passes for 34 yards, highlighted by a 26-yarder in the Finals at Detroit. Like Deguara, he plays what former tight ends coach Justin Outten called the “universal” role. The former nightclub bouncer blocked well but was only targeted four times in the passing game.
Alize Mack was a seventh-round pick by the Saints in 2019, but still hasn’t played in an NFL game. At Notre Dame, Mack was suspended for the 2016 season for academic reasons. The advice of Brian Kelly, then coach? “It will either be the best thing that happens to you or the worst,” Mack recalled. For Mack, that was the best thing. He caught 19 passes for 166 yards in 2017 and 36 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns — all career highs — in 2018.
Eli Wolf started his college career as an extra in Tennessee before finishing in Georgia in 2019, when he caught 13 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown. Wolf spent all of 2020 on the Ravens practice squad and the second half of the 2021 season on the Colts practice squad. The Packers added him in May. He is the second member of his family to be vaccinated with the Packers; Older brother Ethan, also a tight end, spent part of the 2018 season on the practice squad.
leader of the pack
Ageless Marcedes Lewis is a revered figure, which is why the Packers paid his $2.08 million bonus. The NFL’s oldest tight end, Lewis is entering his 17th season. Barring some sort of calamity, it would tie Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and future Hall of Famer Jason Witten for most seasons to a close end in NFL history.
Lewis hits defenders as a blocker as well as on the rare occasions he gave the ball away. Last season, 53 tight ends were targeted at least 25 times. According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis ranked third in catch percentage (82.1), first in fall percentage (0.0) and eighth in yards after catch per catch (6.5).
It’s hard to call a 28-year-old a ‘rising star’, but it has to be Robert Tonyan. He is one of the most important players on the roster. The Packers missed his production last season. With an open feel and great hands, he’s been phenomenal in 2020. Of 49 tight ends that were targeted at least 25 times, Tonyan was No. 1 in catch percentage (89.7) and catch percentage. fall (0.0) and No. 2 passer rating (148.3), according to PFF. He tied Travis Kelce for No. 1 in touchdowns.
There’s a good chance that Tonyan will be on the pitch for Week 1. Given his connection with Aaron Rodgers, which started building in 2017 when Tonyan was added to the practice squad and Rodgers recovering from a broken collarbone, he could be a big factor in helping to replace production Davante Adams.
The Boot Camp Battle
Josiah Deguara vs. Dominique Dafney play similar roles in attack. Maybe that role in the entire roster is so important to coach Matt LaFleur that the Packers will need both. But with Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis and Tyler Davis looking like locks to make the roster, there’s a chance only one of those players will make the final 53. An interesting note: During one of the first OTAs, Dafney worked with the starting offense. on one side of the pitch while Deguara struggled with rookies and bottom-ranked players on the other side.
The big question
Was Robert Tonyan a one-year-old wonder? Tonyan should have been a Pro Bowler in 2020. He was dominant with 52 catches, 11 touchdowns and zero drops. If it seemed like he was wide open on every one of those takes, that’s because it’s almost true. He only had one contested take. By comparison, Miami’s Mike Gesicki caught 53 passes in 2020, 17 of which were contested.
Tonyan wasn’t as productive last season. In 2021, he caught 18 of 29 targets, which means there were 11 incomplete passes in half a season compared to seven for the whole of 2020. To adequately replace Davante Adams will require the contributions of many players . Tonyan must have a big role.
Best case scenario
Robert Tonyan is having a rebound season to make the Packers’ tight body one of the best in the NFL. It’s a room full of specialists. Tonyan is the receiver who can block. Marcedes Lewis is the blocker who can catch. Josiah Deguara does a bit of everything. Combined, this group might be more than the sum of its individual parts, but it starts with Tonyan opening up on the field and catching anything thrown in his zipcode. With the question marks at the receiver, maybe the Packers can just hammer in with Tonyan, Lewis, Tyler Davis and Deguara/Dominique Dafney in a revolving door of tight two and three sets.
worst case scenario
What if Robert Tonyan was a fluke and Marcedes Lewis was getting old? The ACLs are fickle – just ask David Bakhtiari – so there’s no guarantee Tonyan will return to his 2020 form. And, at some point, Lewis, 37, is going to play his age. (Right?) Even though the Packers need Tonyan to catch passes and score touchdowns, they really rely on blocking Lewis to keep the offense going. A team can get by with a tight, below-average game if they have a group of great receivers. The Packers, of course, have a receiver group filled with question marks.
A great stat
Everyone knows the talent of Marcedes Lewis as a blocker. This is partly due to his extensive training in mixed martial arts. Defenders who sleep on Lewis as a receiver are about to ring their bells. Last season, Lewis caught 23 passes and forced nine missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s as many missed tackles as Baltimore’s Mark Andrews, who caught 107, and more than Arizona’s Zach Ertz (74 catches), Miami’s Mike Gesicki (73), Denver’s rising stars Noah Fant and Kyle Pitts of Atlanta (68 catches apiece) and NFC North stand out TJ Hockenson of Detroit (61) and Cole Kmet of Chicago (60).