How Will the Vikings Use Robert Tonyan?

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Robert Tonyan exists on the Minnesota Vikings roster because T.J. Hockenson suffered a brutal injury and will miss a significant portion of the 2024 season. Tonyan is a veteran and should immediately be expected to produce, but how will Kevin O’Connell use his new weapon?

How Will the Vikings Use Robert Tonyan?

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded for T.J. Hockenson following an injury to Irv Smith Jr. a couple of years ago. When the Vikings starting tight end went down, Kirk Cousins and the passing game needed another threat. Hockenson has been nothing short of that, and short of having a pair of elite wide receivers, he’s a top-tier option.

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Let’s be clear, Tonyan is not Hockenson, and expecting that of him would be a problem. He did put up an 11-touchdown season with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers previously, however. That 2020 season was the most productive Tonyan has been during his career. It starkly contrasts his 2023 season with Chicago, where he was thrown the ball just 17 times despite playing in 17 games.

As the premier pass-catching option at tight end for the Vikings, Tonyan’s usage should look significantly different than blocking tight end Josh Oliver. That doesn’t mean Tonyan will absorb the 100-plus targets ticketed for Hockenson last season, but he shouldn’t be featured solely as a red-zone threat. Tight ends can be a security blanket for a quarterback, and both Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy will need him.

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How many targets are available for Tonyan could largely depend on what, if anything, the Vikings do at the third wide receiver position. If that is simply a battle between Brandon Powell and Jalen Nailor, then an additional veteran presence like Tonyan could factor in more heavily. If someone like Hunter Renfrow is brought in as a true wide receiver threat, then the number of available targets will decrease.

No matter what happens, Tonyan has a big opportunity in front of him. Hockenson’s absence means the 30-year-old Tonyan could work into a decent payday on another one-year deal next year. He settled with the Vikings in a spot looking to exact revenge on Chicago. Underutilized, there is a desire to show he still has plenty to offer a team.

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Minnesota stands to benefit from a motivated Tonyan this season, and the extent to which they incorporate him will only further his overall impact.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.