Cory's Corner: All Eyes On 'Big Bob'

Robert Tonyan is on the doorstep of an All-Pro career. 

There's one reason why the Packers don't neeed to worry about tight end for awhile.

Enter Robert Tonyan. 

The Green Bay tight end had a breakthrough season last year with 586 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. He was 13th in the league with 52 receptions. His catch percentage was fourth in the league behind Jonathan Taylor, Jamaal Williams and Isaiah McKenzie. 

Basically, if your eyebrows didn't go up when you watched Tonyan, you missed something. The third-year pro earned the trust of Rodgers by becoming the No. 4 targeted receiver behind Davante Adams, Aaron Jones and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. 

I'm not going to say that Tonyan has the athleticism of Jermichael Finley, but there's certainly value to knowing where you have to be in certain situations. It just seems like Rodgers knows exactly where Tonyan is going to be — right when he needs him most.

Obviously Jace Sternberger doesn't really like this. He was the Packers' third round pick in 2019 and because of injury, he has only played in 18 games. The pressure isn't on Tonyan, because nobody thought Tonyan would even be here. The pressure is on Sternberger because this was supposed to be his position. Now Sternberger has just two more years before he's a free agent. And let's not forget that Josiah Deguara is coming back from a left ACL tear that ended his season in early October. 

I've always said that the X-factor on offense is a tight end that knows how to stretch the field. And the reason is simple. There is a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between good tight ends and average ones. Tonyan had five games last season that saw his average depth of target stretch over 10 yards six times. He can get open by easily getting past a linebacker. 

What was once looked at as a weakness has suddenly turned into a strength. Tight end looks like one of the strongest positions on the team — and that's counting the uncertainty of Sternberger. If the Packers don't draft a wideout in this draft, it's because of the confidence of this positional group. 

But it all comes back to "Big Bob." The relationship that he has made with Rodgers is real and is something that we have all seen grow with each touchdown catch. The reason why it works is because Tonyan is a willing blocker and since the play-action has worked so well, Tonyan has had a leg up on defenses. 

Tonyan wasn't supposed to be here, but the Indiana State record-breaking wide receiver has proven that he's here to stay and as long as he can continue to block, he will continue to see plenty of snaps.

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (38)

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CoachDino's picture

April 17, 2021 at 06:52 am

he has been a nice surprise. Being a 2017 UDFA he didn't breakout (know where to be/assignments) until 2020. Hopefully Jace being a 2019 draft pick can figure it out sooner but to your points he's been injured and has hampered his development. How much remains to be seen. I sure hope his blocking is above avg for a TE as he looks to be the #2 TE of the future.

Question on Big Bob is how much of his success was due to scheme, DA, AJones and ARod?

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geronamaker's picture

April 17, 2021 at 03:46 pm

Good question. Also, Big Bob was a non-factor in NFCCG crunch time, as were in fact the entire receiving corps with the glaring exception of MVS who let's not forget was the best receiver on the field that day with only 6 targets.

Tonyan did reel in a TD in the third quarter but overall his 5 for 22 yards were nothing to write home about. Going into the game I felt solid pass catching by our TE and RB groups would have to be the difference given the probability of TB smothering the running game while keeping Adams in check and pressuring Rodgers all day long.

Neither Adams, Tonyan nor Jones did much in the game as it turned out. Jones fumble was the single most devastating play, matched only by the end of half meltdown which is on the coaches more than King. Never was a timeout more needed than before that play.

This was a very winnable game and the Packers star players performed just well enough to lose after the much maligned defense re-grouped at halftime and played a very solid second half. Green Bay definitely has the players to win it all. Performance in key situations makes or breaks. And ours was subpar on this day.

I never blame refs one way or other but the usual Lambeau homer flags were not in evidence at all for the Packers. If anything, TB got the key GOAT calls both on the Rodgers first half pick and the late PI on King where the ball wasn't remotely catchable. They could have called hold there but even that was ticky tack given the key nature of the down and time left, especially after letting them play and ignoring blatant DB contact earlier.

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PeteK's picture

April 17, 2021 at 11:23 am

Tonyan was better( 1Td, 2 Fds) than the great Gronk 0 TD, 1FD. Adams not part of the problem with 1TD and 5FD.

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geronamaker's picture

April 17, 2021 at 04:43 pm

I was one first down short of matching Gronk in FD/TD and I went for 77 yards from sofa to fridge and back.

I felt pretty good about my performance overall and better yet I have zero uncertainty about my football future.

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stockholder's picture

April 17, 2021 at 07:38 am

I don't want to burst anyones bubble. But the pressure is on everyone. Especially Tonyan. After two 13-3 seasons. They have to pick up where they left off. Arron Rodgers success depends on everyone catching the ball. He can't have regression, and players who live on last years success'. If they want Rodgers to stick around. They'll overcome any struggles and just do it again. I can't imagine Gute doing anything in the draft that helps Rodgers. So lets not blow smoke up anyones butt there. This offense must hit on all it's cylinders. And The TEs must continue to give their best, for it to achieve as expected.

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geronamaker's picture

April 17, 2021 at 08:23 am

Great comment! No excuses and no blame games.

Just do it. The talent is there.

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nostradanus's picture

April 17, 2021 at 07:46 am

The best part is they stole him from the Lions and didn’t have to use a draft choice.

Winning :)

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blondy45's picture

April 17, 2021 at 04:04 pm

Right on nostradanus. He was not only not a late round draft pick, but was an UDFA. Another example of developing talent on your own team. This fortifies my belief that the Pack needs more bites at the apple in the upcoming draft. We have had the coaching staff that has developed many a lower ranked player from later rounds or FA (Lazard, MVS, AARON JONES). I must admit I am glad to see both the defensive and special team coaches be replaced. The downside is the new defensive scheme which both the players AND the coach must blend in for the better. How long will that take?

On an unrelated Tonyan topic, I believe the Pack's OL is in good hands. We do need to develop a young OT. I believe the Pack's three drafted OL from 2020 could all possibly develop and be valuable Interior linemen sooner than later. Draft an OT and a WR this year? Yes, the question is when. The Pack needs a defensive refortification for sure. My wild bet is we may draft Zaven Collins from Tulsa at 29, not an OT. Again we have no way of knowing who will be available at 29. It could be Barmore, Farley, or Moehrig. Who will drop? Do we trade back? Please do not trade UP in the first round. PLEASE! Draft day can not get here soon enough.

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flackcatcher's picture

April 17, 2021 at 05:09 pm

More questions than answers about Barry. I also wonder if they will modify and not change the defensive scheme. This is where the short OTA and training camp will bite the Packers in the short term. It would not surprise me if they drafted OT, TE and a player who could fit into their F-Back position. All critical pieces of their offensive scheme that were missing at the NFCCG.

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Coldworld's picture

April 18, 2021 at 06:42 am

Why are we missing an F Back? Deguara is back and Dafney looks like a find.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 18, 2021 at 10:01 am

Conversely the Lions got Boyle from the Packers. Somehow I think the Lions got a very good QB. I wish Boyle well, but let's just hope Boyle doesn't come back to negatively impact the Packers.

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Lare's picture

April 17, 2021 at 08:05 am

One of Bob Tonyan's best abilities has been his availability, he's only missed 5 games in three years and none last season.

Tonyan will be fine as long as he continues to be where he's supposed to be and catches the ball when it's thrown to him.

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wildbill's picture

April 17, 2021 at 10:15 am

Some things are out of his control. I tape, and rewatch, Packer wins. I can’t tell you how many times Bob, and others, were wide open and Rodgers forced the ball to Adams. We won every game Adams missed the last two years. I know the completion comes into play and I’m not knocking awesome Adams but geez just hit the open man that moves the chains or scores.

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PeteK's picture

April 17, 2021 at 11:28 am

Yeah and I don't like the dress that the Mona Lisa is wearing. LOL

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PF4L's picture

April 17, 2021 at 02:53 pm

Unbelievable.

We have an MVP QB who throws over 70%....48 TD's...5 picks..4,300 yards 84.4 QBR...121 passer rating and you tape a game, re watch it, to find something to bitch about?

God help you when we run out of HOF QB's under center in Green Bay.

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PF4L's picture

April 17, 2021 at 03:27 pm

Lol...

Breathe easy folks...Jordan Love is coming soon

HELP....IS ON THE WAY.

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wildbill's picture

April 20, 2021 at 02:50 pm

I’ve been a Packer fan since the early 60s and watched plenty of bad QB play in the 70/80s. Everybody can improve and should be working towards it. If you knew anything about Lombardi, which I doubt you do, he said you always strive for perfection. You won’t achieve it but in striving for it you will attain excellence. Not a direct quote but good enough for you

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 18, 2021 at 10:38 am

And I can tell you as an ex-athlete being open repeatedly and not having ball come to you is maddeningly frustrating and demoralizing.

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Coldworld's picture

April 17, 2021 at 08:48 am

I read this and my gut feeling is that we are well ahead of ourselves on Tonyan. Tonyan is not a game changer, what he is is a player who has become very dependable in a system that fits his route and catching prowess and that is run by a very accurate QB with elite field vision.

That’s not to say Tonyan isn’t very valuable piece for us, or that he doesn’t make a difference in games. Teams need his type and mentality of being the best he can be. Reminds me of Adams and Driver as far as attitude. All Tonyan has to do is keep doing what he has in the passing game, keep working on his blocking and stay healthy. What we have to do is not exaggerate his upside and be happy he has become a significant cog in our O.

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PF4L's picture

April 17, 2021 at 03:14 pm

Cold is exactly right.

Corey proclaims Tonyan is on the verge of an All Pro career. I'm not even sure what that is...lol.
He's an All-Pro 4 or 5 seasons?

The truth being, he had "one" very nice season. So did Nick Perry

There is obvious rapport between Rodgers and Tonyan, and credit Tonyan for understanding and being capable of knowing where to be...to make plays.
Also, having a stellar target catch rate.

I love Tonyan, i love his work ethic and attitude, i love that he shares a bond with Rodgers and that Rodgers respects him as a football player.
Tonyan earned that respect.

But you aren't having a All Pro career.
You aren't having a Pro Bowl career.
You aren't having a HOF career.
UNTILL ....you can perform consistently

Tonyan had a very good year...we love it.....now, build on it.

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Leland's picture

April 17, 2021 at 08:55 am

Toyan is a football player. The game is not too big for him. Enough said. Get more like him.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 18, 2021 at 10:46 am

MM stymied Tonyan's development in 2018 by playing an injured and ineffective Graham even at end of season. This just confirmed for me MM needed to go.

Tonyan would have had a 2020 like season in 2019 if he didn't gotten hurt. Tonyan is the real deal and will continue to perform and improve if given the opportunities. If Adam's isnt resigned after this upcoming season it are players like Tonyan and others who will diversify the offense making it harder for defenses.

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CheesyTex's picture

April 17, 2021 at 09:31 am

Which "Big Bob" are we talking about?

ls it the one I see is the one that has built himself up from a lanky, small school wide receiver into an ascending tight end, the one I read about doing his offseason workouts with Kittle, the one who has actually learned to block and is willing to do it, the one who works within the system and rarely drops anything, TD machine, etc.?

Or, is it the one that was not deserving of a first round tender? I thought the Big Bob I see would have received several offers at the price of a second round tender, and maybe he still will (April 23 deadline, I believe). Maybe it is just the cap problems due to Covid, but surprised no offers to date. I guess GM's must view players through much the same lens and they see what I can't.

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dobber's picture

April 17, 2021 at 10:11 am

Remember that the tender is a promise of compensation, though, too. So the Packers are weighing whether another team is willing to put up for Tonyan monetarily at the cost of a pick, while also asking what they're willing or able to promise to the player right now and what they'd be willing to try to match if an offer sheet were signed. They don't want to overcommit financially, or undercommit, making the draft compensation so it's not going to make another team think twice.

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CheesyTex's picture

April 17, 2021 at 10:40 am

Thanks, dobber.

Where I get lost is thinking that teams with cap space looking for a TE would surely value Tonyan's proven record enough to make a decent multi-year proposal.

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Gman1976's picture

April 17, 2021 at 11:11 am

CheesyTex, I am shocked that no team has put up an offer for Big Bob. The stats (TDs & catch percentage) are out of this world. Gute gambled and it may still pay off, but if I am a GM with cap space & need a quality TE, I'd go after Big Bob in a heart beat. He is not going to be a one year wonder and his work ethic says a lot about his future.

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CheesyTex's picture

April 17, 2021 at 07:48 pm

As my great-grandson would say, it's a "curious mystery".

I'm with you, Gman1976. It seems crazy that no team has given it a try when there is no TE anywhere close to comparable to draft in the second round, and Big Bob could likely be had for a 3 year deal with a decent signing bonus plus first year only guaranteed (that would leave him a heck of a lot better off than a $3.8 M tender with free agency at end of next year).

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Coldworld's picture

April 18, 2021 at 06:53 am

I can see a number of likely considerations, just to be devil’s advocate.

One season only will be a factor. Some questions over his ability after the catch. The realization that, if they do sign him they will have to pay him to retain him because they’ve flagged the importance they place on him (poor negotiating position) and also surrender a second rounder this year.

Most teams value their second round picks fairly highly. The cap rich teams tend to pick early and this is a draft with good depth. This is one reason why not many high tender players do move in RFA.

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PatrickGB's picture

April 17, 2021 at 10:33 am

Recently I read that very few teams (if any) are willing to bite on the second round tender.

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PeteK's picture

April 17, 2021 at 11:06 am

Sorry to change the subject, but Sheldon Richardson was released. He is a bit lighter at 293 than a true DT, but 64 tkls and 4 sks would be hard to find in the draft. It might be time to rework another contract.

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 17, 2021 at 11:48 am

A five tech guy.

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geronamaker's picture

April 18, 2021 at 08:30 am

He will also have to fall to 29th in the waiver order....is that even remotely possible? If so I would re-work and extend Adams to free up the cap space with the big caveat the front office and coaches believe he can make the required impact to sign for $$$$. In my opinion DL and inside linebacker are bigger needs than CB, if only because a stronger front 6-7 lightens the pressure on the defensive backs we have in place....improved QB pressure but also more consistency in run stoppage force more obvious passing downs which also benefit the DB, at least in theory, while the front can tee off on the pass rush.

Not saying you do this at all but the front office bashers who whine on about not building a team around Rodgers tend to ignore the basic fact of life for the handful of NFL teams who win a lot of games every year.....the draft and waiver wire order of selection makes known impact players very difficult to obtain especially at the premium positions such as DL.

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geronamaker's picture

April 18, 2021 at 10:49 am

Pete K. I got corrected on the other thread. Richardson is not subject to waivers. Let's get him!

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frankthefork's picture

April 17, 2021 at 12:12 pm

Love Big Bob but he's like Brate is to TB; and without a ring. Steady and always there. Don't think anyone would give a 2nd round on him or pay 3.5m but the Packers. GB needs to get a better blocking TE or use Nauta if he can bring it; I don't see Sternberger as being consistently available and worthy of a spot on the final 53. And The Big Dog will retire after this run. Gute will wait until the 5th, but is known to gamble and pass on opportunities. Daze away...GPG

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HankScorpio's picture

April 18, 2021 at 06:00 am

All Pro? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. TD receptions are a notoriously up and down thing. There are way more examples of guys having a crazy outlier season in terms of TD catches than there are examples of guys that truly excel as red zone threats. In other reception metrics, Tonyan has a long, long, long ways to go to catch the elite TEs. He was in the 70s for both yards and catches in the NFL last year. Darren Waller and Travis Kelce were both top 10 in both categories.

I'm very happy with what Tonyan did last year. But I find it incredibly short-sighted to say that TE is solved for the foreseeable future. And that's the nice way of phrasing it. I try to avoid terms like "blindingly stupid" and "massively ignorant". See me avoiding those terms?

1) ML uses multiple TEs often. Tonyan is one guy. Who's the 2nd? Ancient Marcedes Lewis? Invisible Jace Sternberger?
2) Tonyan is solid but hardly spectacular, at least so far. He may develop more. I'm hoping he does. What he showed last year is enough to get it done. But not much more than that. More is always better.
3) He's not backed up his "breakout" year with a 2nd productive season
4) He's not under contract at all. He's likely to sign his RFA tender since his profile does not support surrendering a 2nd. But that locks him up for a single season and leaves him free as a bird to sign elsewhere in 2022. The Packers have kicked a lot of cans into 2022 already.

It's a horrible draft class for TE. And there are much bigger priorites. But if one of the few good prospects falls into their laps, they ought to jump on it. And drafting a developmental propsect late is most definitely a wise use of a round 5-7 pick, if they can land a guy they like.

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Coldworld's picture

April 18, 2021 at 07:01 am

Some of the slack will be taken up by the H backs, Deguara and Dafney. Both can block. Lewis will be there to in line block as he was last year. Funchess is really as much a move TE as WR. Nuata may be a viable back up as well as Sternberger.

I’m not particularly concerned about the TE/blocking aspect of the roster.

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HankScorpio's picture

April 18, 2021 at 08:57 am

That listing of players serves to underscore my point that there is a lot more hope and potential than actual tangible production. Those guys might be able to provide enough in the regular season when they are playing the likes of Detroit but that's not the target.

If Funchess even makes the final 53, I'll consider it a failure of the personnel dept. I'd say the same about Nuata but he's young enough that he still might develop. I would have moved on from Lewis. He's been living on borrowed time already. Father Time always wins in the end. Maybe that will happen prior to Sept 2021.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 18, 2021 at 10:05 pm

If anyone has already brought this up I apologize. I usually am much more up on the NFL draft than this year. However, I have been trying to read up on the top WR's in the draft. I would imagine that most on here would like to see a shifty WR for the Slot who can also play ST's.

My two questions are who would prefer an outside WR vs those who would prefer a Slot WR?

My other question is what are peoples thoughts about Kyle Pitts from Florida? I had not heard about him previously and see he is a match up nightmare at 6'6" and runs a 4.44 dash in the 40. Sounds like quite the player but we already have 4 very tall WR's and we have a couple of up and coming TE's.

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