Tight Ends Provide Passing Game with Needed Spark

On Sunday against Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers' passing game received a much-needed boost from the tight ends. 

There's a reason that the Green Bay Packers have been calling on Houston Texans' wide receiver Will Fuller; without Allen Lazard, this group of receivers - minus Davante Adams, of course - has been very underwhelming.
 
Against Tampa Bay, receivers not named Adams would total four catches on nine targets for 48 yards. Then in Houston, those same receivers caught just two passes on seven targets for six yards. However, Malik Taylor did find the end zone. 
 
Most recently, against Minnesota, the group had its best performance in recent weeks, which included two crucial conversions from Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown and 63 total yards on four receptions. However, St. Brown had two brutal drops, and really, 63 yards on four receptions from four different players is nothing to write home about.
 
With the receiver group - once again, not Adams - underwhelming, this Packers' passing attack received a much-needed jolt from the tight end position on Sunday. Ultimately, since Green Bay did lose, it wasn't enough, but the duo of Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan put together two very good games.
 
Tonyan was targeted seven times and hauled in five of those passes for a game-high 79 yards, including a 45-yard catch. Meanwhile, Sternberger had three receptions on four targets for 46 yards with a 27-yard reception of his own. Not to mention that he could have had another big play but Rodgers over through him. 
 
When it was all said and done, the Tonyan-Sternberger duo finished with eight receptions for 125 yards at an impressive 15.6 yards per catch. They were making plays downfield, a task that was all the more difficult in the wind, and getting open off of Matt LaFleur's run action concepts.
 
It's been since the days of Jermichael Finley that the Green Bay Packers have had consistent and reliable production from the tight end position, but we are starting to see that on a more regular basis in 2020. 
 
Tonyan has emerged as a favorite red-zone target of Rodgers with five touchdown receptions and now has three games with at least 50 receiving yards. He's also becoming a regular downfield threat with 52 receiving yards on deep passes - or plays of 20+ yards - which is the ninth most at the tight end position. On top of that, he has a near-perfect passer rating of 154.2 when targeted. 
 
In Sternberger's case, admittedly, it was a slow start to the season, but he's now averaging over 12 yards per catch and does have a touchdown reception, along with two games with at least 35 receiving yards. 
 
Both Sternberger and Tonyan are ideal fits for the LaFleur offense. They can lineup anywhere in the formation, they are willing blockers, and in the passing game, they can make plays in all areas of the field as well as with the ball in their hands. To put it simply, they can be matchup problems for opposing defenses. While the return of Allen Lazard and Aaron Jones will undoubtedly provide the offense with a boost, for this Packers team to reach their full potential, they need the tight end position to continue being productive.  

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (13)

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Bearmeat's picture

November 02, 2020 at 12:39 pm

The TEs and RBs (with Jones) are better than our WRs. Maybe the TEs are even moderately above average. We knew this going into the year. But they're not great. There are no blue chip players there. There are two great offensive players (4 if you count Bakh and ARod). Jones and Adams.

The rest of them? JAGs or above average, or in the case of our WRs, below average. The scheme helps. But we need to stay on schedule for the scheme to work. The 2nd half yesterday looked a whole lot like 2019 and 2018.

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Coldworld's picture

November 02, 2020 at 12:49 pm

In part this was talent
In part this was weather
In part this was a function of playing more heavy sets

Outside of EQ (2 drops on 3) and a toss that Ervin mishandled, Taylor, MVS and Shepherd didn’t drop and, from brief rescanning, were getting open on a number of plays.

I’m a big believer in the potential of our TEs. I’m much less certain about the basis for this article or it’s conclusions as to why the TEs were important yesterday.

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canadapacker's picture

November 02, 2020 at 03:25 pm

EQ had really one drop - the other would have been a fantastic catch - even the drop was a tough catch and they showed the replay several times saying that AR had put it in the only place - diving to your right amongst 2 defenders - not saying that pros dont need to make that catch but not an uncontested drop - neither was the other one - think he misplayed his jump a little as did the Vikes player - Lazard always makes those. I love the tight ends except when they hold . Prefer them leaking out into the middle.

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packerbackerjim's picture

November 02, 2020 at 03:45 pm

It would appear many WRs and DBs never played baseball. Couldn’t judge a fly ball for nothing.

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buddrow53's picture

November 02, 2020 at 01:51 pm

The other wr than Adams were targeted 27x with 20 receptions for 238 yards. Kudos to them on a windy cold wisconsin day.

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Leatherhead's picture

November 02, 2020 at 06:33 pm

A small correction, if I may. All receivers other than Adams were targeted 27 times, caught 20 passes for 238 yards and 3 TDS. On a hard wind day in November. With 0 turnovers and one sack for no yards.

I think very few teams can do that. Kudos.

Without 3 starters on offense. And people continue to insist this team is in desperate need of a WR. Tonyan and Sternberger caught 5 from the TE spot and it could have been more. The RB caught 7. And we had a bunch of guys who caught 1 pass for a first down. We averaged over 10 yards per reception.

Bakhtiari, and Jones, and Lazard will all return and the offense will be fine as long as we protect Rodgers.

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Philarod's picture

November 02, 2020 at 09:53 pm

....and 3 TDs. No, they combined for O TDs, and if they were better, they would have had more receptions and yards.

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nostradanus's picture

November 02, 2020 at 02:22 pm

The young TE’s have been a bright spot for sure and let’s not forget about Degura who looked great in a small sample size.
The future of this TE group is looking excellent, it’s been nice to see TE’s involved in the passing game.
Once Lazard returns at WR the Packers will be formidable once again going into the second half of the season and playoffs!
Go Pack!

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Leatherhead's picture

November 02, 2020 at 05:24 pm

We threw 41 passes, and completed 27 for 291 yards. 1 sack, no turn over, 3 TDs

Too much passing, especially on a hard wind day, IMO. We had some success on the ground.

Of the 27 receptions, Adams had 7, Williams 6, and Tonyan 5. They were the Big 3 of the air attack. 18 of our 27 completions. The remaining 9 included 3 to Sternberger and a bunch of guys with 1............MSV, EQ, Dillon, Shepherd et. al.

Of the 14 incompletions, some were throwaways because Rodgers got rid of the rock. Two were off the hands of Ervin, and two were off the hands of EQ. One was a clear overthrow of Sternberger.

There are damn few teams in the league with that kind of passing attack....

Defensively.....Cousins only threw 14 passes for 150 yards, including Cooks 50 yarder. We’re built to play pass defense but we couldn’t make them pass, and if it’s a harbinger of things to come then we’ve see this movie before. Somehow, some way, we’re going to have to stop it with the people we have because I don’t see any monster DL falling out of the sky.

We’re not getting turnovers and we’re not stopping in the red zone. And we’ve given up TWO embarrassing long TDs to Kamara and Cook....in the first half of the season.

:::::::::: :::::::::::::::::

Does anybody remember us playing a 5-1-5 with Mike Douglas? It’s about the only way I can think of to get more fresh beef on the line.

Clarke-Keke-Lancaster-Lowry-Smith

Barnes

King-Alexander
Savage- Amos-Greene

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Archie's picture

November 02, 2020 at 03:57 pm

Yes, Gute has done a fine job at rebuilding our TE group. Tonyan's development this year has been a pleasant surprise. After a slow start, possibly due to covid, Sternberger is coming on nicely as well. Marcedes is a great addition to any team. And DeGuara looked great in his one game before injury. Hope he returns at 100%. No complaints about TE at all other than TT should have paid Jared Cook instead of Martellus and Jimmy.

While Lazard will certainly help at WR and contrary to most, I believe EQ showed a lot of potential on both of his drops yesterday, I think we could use one more WR, like a Will Fuller.

On defense, they have got to go get a run stopping DT.

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GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

November 02, 2020 at 04:34 pm

This team isn’t going anywhere in the playoffs if they even make it. The DL can’t stop the run. Need a 2 WR. The failure to address these needs in the draft and off season is pure incompetence. Last 2 - 1st round picks are a joke. BG = TT 2.0.

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GeorgiaCheesehead's picture

November 02, 2020 at 06:15 pm

BG - about 24 hours left until the trade deadline in case you are unaware....

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 03, 2020 at 04:14 am

Cousins did not attempt a pass more than 10 yards downfield.

Cousins passes on average traveled 1.7 yds downfield but he averaged over 11 yards per attempt.

Something really wrong with that.

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