Thursday, May 29, 2014
Falcons not blocking out promising Toilolo
By Vaughn McClure
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons' emphasis on having more of a blocking tight end in the lineup shouldn't prevent Levine Toilolo from having an impact this season.
In fact, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter bristled when it was implied that Toilolo wouldn't be best suited for blocking situations.
"Well, I think Levine is that blocking tight end,'' Koetter said. "There are a couple different types of tight ends in the league right now. There are the Tony Gonzalez-Jimmy Graham-type tight ends. The other tight ends in the league right now are guys that are jack-of-all-trades. They do everything. They run block, they pass block, they run routes, they run after the catch and they block like a fullback at times.
"All of our tight ends, starting with Levine, they fall more into that role.''
The 6-foot-8, 265-pound Toilolo obviously provides a big target for quarterback Matt Ryan, particularly in the red zone. The former fourth-round draft pick out of Stanford grew as a player last season while taking some of the first-team practice reps, with Gonzalez preserving his aching body during his last NFL season. His game reps were limited, but Toilolo still managed two touchdowns among his 11 catches.
And although the Falcons added a veteran blocking tight end in Bear Pascoe, have faith in the development of Mickey Shuler, and added an intriguing rookie in Jacob Pedersen, Toilolo remains the primary guy in the tight end group. He simply wasn't featured during Wednesday's open session of organized team activities because he was nursing an undisclosed injury -- one minor in nature and not expected to keep him sidelined long.
Toilolo understands he needs to take advantage of as many offseason reps as possible as he continues to mature into his role and enhance his blocking skills.
"It's a world of difference,'' Toilolo said, referring to his overall development from his first year going into the second. "Coming in, this is my second time around as far as going through the playbook and all of our installs. Things are clicking a little bit faster and I'm able to play a little bit faster. I just kind of focus on technique work. So it takes a little bit off my plate as far as mental-wise. I think that helps.''
Tight end coach Chris Scelfo has plenty of faith of Toilolo without putting unrealistic expectations on him.
"Nobody's going to replace Tony,'' Scelfo said, referring to Gonzalez. "Matt doesn't expect that. Mike Smith doesn't expect that. ... We're always caught up in this statistical world. It's so easy to say, `Well, he had 90 catches for 1,200 yards.' At the end of the day, how will you help our team win?
"With Levine, he needs to work on everything. He's a second-year player. He's going to grow and develop. The one thing about him is, he's ascending. He's going to be a good player.''