Can Robert Tonyan Solve the Vikings’ TE Problem?

Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan (85) runs for a first down on a reception against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter during their football game Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Apc Packvsvikes 0101231412djp

The Minnesota Vikings come into the 2024 season with a serious issue at the tight end position. As T.J. Hockenson is expected to miss a significant portion of the upcoming season after suffering a late-season knee injury, Robert Tonyan was brought in to fill the void. How much he can provide the offense remains to be seen, but there is a track record of significant performance.

Can Robert Tonyan Solve the Vikings’ TE Problem?

Obviously, the Minnesota Vikings know Robert Tonyan well, given his time spent with the Green Bay Packers. He went to the Chicago Bears last season and was targeted just 17 times for 11 receptions. One would imagine his usage for Kevin O’Connell will be substantially higher, but what he brings to the offense remains to be seen.

robert tonyan
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Whether Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy is under center, having a capable tight end as a security blanket is something both signal callers could get behind. It’s great that Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison are two of the best wide receivers in football, but they can’t be the only reliable options if the Vikings are going to thrive in the passing game.

Tonyan’s last two seasons in Green Bay were productive, if not unremarkable. His 2020 season featured him as a red zone machine for Aaron Rodgers. Hauling in 11 touchdowns, he was constantly open and available when the team looked to punch the ball into the end zone. Hockenson has been used in a similar way for Minnesota, and while the athleticism isn’t close for Tonyan, he represents a reliable target.

t.j. Hockenson
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Expecting Tonyan to carry the same target share as Hockenson has experienced would be foolish, but given Minnesota’s uncertainty for their third wide receiver spot, there should be plenty of opportunity to contribute. If McCarthy and Darnold will thrive in their new situation, then developing a quick rapport with the fill-in tight end makes a good deal of sense.

There is no question that O’Connell’s offense will miss Hockenson while he is out, but the more Tonyan can help mitigate that reality, the better.

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.