Not much went right against the New York Jets, but one of the few bright spots was seeing tight end Robert Tonyan start to get back to form. Tight ends in the Packers' offense aren’t used quite as conventionally as they are in the true Shanahan-style offense with split zone leaks, drags, or Y-Delays. Instead, the Packers have become much more RPO- and drop-back-centric in a blend of LaFleur’s offense and Rodgers’ comfort zone. There is some LaFleur flavor, but at least against the Jets, the bulk of the game plan didn’t involve true boot action and rollouts with skill players in the flats. Despite a style of offensive play that wouldn’t typically feature the tight end, Robert Tonyan still compiled 10 receptions for 90 yards on the day.
With right tackle Elgton Jenkins’ struggles, the Packers gave chips and help to his side. A lot of the time, that duty was left to Tonyan. This has let him both help Jenkins and allow for the defense to drop him in coverage where he can find a soft spot in zone and make himself available to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Especially when the offensive line is struggling, Tonyan is critical to helping the Packers in protection and keeping the offense on schedule. As he gets his legs back underneath him after returning from his ACL tear last season, these dump-offs turn into bigger and bigger yards-after-catch opportunities with Tonyan in the open field.
The Packers utilized Tonyan out of the slot in 2x2 formations on an out-fade concept and on stick. Both plays isolate Tonyan on a linebacker or slot defender with the corner held by the #1 receiver. Tonyan has the frame and route-running ability to win outside space and Rodgers consistently put the ball on his outside shoulder to allow him an opportunity to run after the catch and secure a safe completion.
While Rodgers clearly trusts receivers Randall Cobb and Allen Lazard the most, Tonyan might be next in line. Tonyan has a knack for finding space for check-downs and that is also true on scramble drills. He works back to Rodgers and gives his quarterback-friendly angles to attack and get completions.
Bow is another concept where Tonyan needs to settle in space while a dig breaks in behind him. If defenders gain depth under the dig, Rodgers will throw the ball underneath to Tonyan. That’s exactly what happens as the outside linebacker widens to the flats and the linebacker inside of him gains depth – leaving a soft spot for Tonyan and an easy completion.
A lot of these concepts are called specifically with the intention to get safe completions to the slot player. Tonyan showed he can be a reliable target and an integral part of an offense that needs all the help it can get to move the chains and put points on the board.