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Falcons Tight End Levine Toilolo Catching On In Third Season


FentayeJones
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- There was no need for Levine Toilolo to go back and dissect each one of his four drops from last season. The third-year Atlanta Falcons tight end knew what went wrong even before any coach pointed it out on film.

"I mean, little things: taking my eyes off the ball and trying to get up the field before you secure the catch," said Toilolo, who had three drops alone in a loss to the Chicago Bears. "It's simple things like that. This offseason, I tried to get back to the basics. It's really just pitch and catch out there."

Yes, Toilolo has made it look easy with an impressive training camp. Then in last Friday's 31-24 preseason win over Tennessee, he made the most of his opportunities with three catches for 36 yards. His grab down the sideline from T.J. Yates even inspired resting starting quarterback Matt Ryan to run over and pull Toilolo from the ground in celebratory fashion.

Tight ends coach Wade Harman, who was the Falcons' assistant offensive line coach last season, notices a remarkable difference in Toilolo's play.

"I think he's got a little more confidence going," Harman said. "I know he lost some confidence last year on a couple of balls in there. I know he spent a lot of time in the offseason just working on his hands and just being confident that he can do it. I think it's him just having a little more confidence in himself and his ability."

Toilolo learned behind legend Tony Gonzalez as a rookie in 2013. Then last year as the starter in all 16 games, Toilolo's biggest claim to fame was filling in at right tackle due to a slew of injuries along the offensive line.

The Falcons obviously weren't content with what they had at tight end, which is why they signed established pass-catcher Jacob Tamme along with pass-blocker Tony Moeaki. It left Toilolo as the third tight end in certain sets during practice, but it didn't mean he would be squeezed out of the tight end picture completely.

In fact, Falcons coach Dan Quinn singled out Toilolo for his blocking during one training camp practice. Then the 6-foot-8, 265-pound Toilolo started to make every catch within reach, earning notice from the coaches, players and fans alike.

"For me, it's just trying to change the mindset of just being here to compete," Toilolo said. "Every ball that's up there, you're obviously trying to make a play. I think for me, I'm just trying to relax and get back to playing football.

"The whole tight end group has done a good job of pushing one another. You see one guy make a play and it makes you want to work that much harder. When you get your opportunity, you want to make sure you take advantage of it."

Toilolo also soaked in some sound advice from Harman.

"Coach Harman does a good job of every day reminding me to play big," Toilolo said. "He says, 'You have this frame; make sure you use it. When the ball is out there, don't just concentrate on catching it, but attack it and go get it.' That's definitely helped me."

Harman believes there's a place for Toilolo in Kyle Shanahan's offense even despite the additions of Tamme and Moeaki.

"No question: You can't have enough good tight ends," Harman said. "As a tight ends coach, you love as many as you can to get out there on the field. If we can get in 13 personnel (1 back, 3 tight ends, 1 receiver) -- get all of them out there, if you can. If they're multifaceted and have that ability to do different things, and if you can get them on the field and they can run block and catch passes, they give you a lot of versatility."

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Back to basics seems to be the theme this year, and I am ok with that!

Basics as in catching the ball. He's had serious hands problems in his time here.

Most of his drops were costly one's too, and he can;t block. For all the raving about a 6'8 TE he's been a disappointment imo.

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I will be the first to admit, I'm happy Toilolo is slowing proving me wrong. He's actually looked competent in camp (from my own eyes) and in the first PS game. I had very low hopes he would amount to anything after last year and he's showing sound improvement.

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I will be the first to admit, I'm happy Toilolo is slowing proving me wrong. He's actually looked competent in camp (from my own eyes) and in the first PS game. I had very low hopes he would amount to anything after last year and he's showing sound improvement.

I’ve criticized the heck out of Lolo, but if this dude can turn into something I’ll be more than happy.

I always say that the more draft picks we have that can develop into players the better off the whole team will be because we won’t have to always waste picks plugging up holes.

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I keep saying this, but it's worth repeating; having a good blocking TE who can also catch the ball with consistency gives the OC a ton of flexibility in gameplanning, especially in goal line situations.

Most good receiving TEs suck at blocking. Ours is a backup RT!

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After last year didn't have a lot of hope he'd ever be more than what he was at the time, but I'm pleasantly surprised he's turned a corner. This is why my policy is to wait until the middle of a players 3rd season before drawing conclusions about a players ceiling.

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After last year didn't have a lot of hope he'd ever be more than what he was at the time, but I'm pleasantly surprised he's turned a corner. This is why my policy is to wait until the middle of a players 3rd season before drawing conclusions about a players ceiling.

Competition breeds excellence. Will be fun to see how much potential he has knowing he needs to shape up or get out. Bringing in Meoaki and Tamme was the best thing we could've done for him. We didn't bring in anyone we knew was going to replace him for sure, such as Cameron or Gresham. We have him a shot by bringing in solid competition and let him fight his way to the top. So excited for the kid, cause hes only going to continue to improve.

Edited by FenixFalcon
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Competition breeds excellence. Will be fun to see how much potential he has knowing he needs to shape up or get out. Bringing in Meoaki and Tamme was the best thing we could've done for him. We didn't bring in anyone we knew was going to replace him for sure, such as Cameron or Gresham. We have him a shot by bringing in solid competition and let him fight his way to the top. So excited for the kid, cause hes only going to continue to improve.

Yeah because bringing in players like Bear Pascoe for competition certainly is not going to push you or make you better.

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Call me crazy, but I've always liked Toilolo. He's shown flashes of being a great TE and looks a lot like Tony Gonzalez catching the football. If you don't believe me watch and compare both of them catching a football. He'll never be Tony Gonzalez, but what a weapon to have if he can haul in the catches thrown his way. A 6'8" receiver is another weapon teams have to prepare for.

Edited by PHALCONABERNATHY
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Yeah because bringing in players like Bear Pascoe for competition certainly is not going to push you or make you better.

That was like them bringing in Nate Stupar for competition with Worrilow, was comical. Stupar is a great ST player and serviceable rotational player but nothing more. Id be shocked if he stuck to the roster for anything more than ST with our FA signings this season.

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Good points everyone is making about the level of competition helping these younger guys. They are definitely being coached up as well, you can see the hands on approach in camp is strikingly different than what we saw the last couples years at camp

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Call me crazy, but I've always liked Toilolo. He's shown flashes of being a great TE and looks a lot like Tony Gonzalez catching the football. If you don't believe me watch and compare both of them catching a football. He'll never be Tony Gonzalez, but what a weapon to have if he can haul in the catches thrown his way. A 6'8" receiver is another weapon teams have to prepare for.

Thing is, there aren't any defensive players in the league that could defend Tony Gonzalez at 6' 8" so lets hope he does improve that much. Ryan will never have to worry about red zone targets again and we won't have to be so concerned about Roddy's decline.

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This is why I don't even bother to post on here very much.

It's just so annoying to me how so many people on these boards want to give up on players if they're not an All Pro in there first couple of years.

Wanted Kerney cut, wanted Finneran cut, wanted Roddy cut and then in their third year they turn a corner. Toilolo was a backup his first year, pushed to a starter role in his 2nd where the coaches admitted before the season they were going to de emphasize the TE position. So let's cut him before he can finish developing. Brilliant.

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These types of articles are typical at this time of year. Everyone's hopeful that everyone is going to improve or turn the corner, etc. Admittedly, I've had no time to keep up with camp reports and I don't have cable in my new place so I didn't see anything in preseason but I'm going to have to see it to believe it with Levine after his first two seasons.

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This is why I don't even bother to post on here very much.

It's just so annoying to me how so many people on these boards want to give up on players if they're not an All Pro in there first couple of years.

Wanted Kerney cut, wanted Finneran cut, wanted Roddy cut and then in their third year they turn a corner. Toilolo was a backup his first year, pushed to a starter role in his 2nd where the coaches admitted before the season they were going to de emphasize the TE position. So let's cut him before he can finish developing. Brilliant.

To be specific it isn't that Toilolo was bad last year either, he just happened to drop like 4 passes he actually had caught because he turned to run before securing the catch first that people started hating him for. He caught a lot of passes that were thrown his way and made a couple nice plays for us. Those drops were so blatantly pathetic because securing the ball is the first thing a TE needs to worry about. Once you secure you worry about picking up extra yards.

Thing is a lot of people got used to Gonzalez picking up another 5+ yards after the catch so its easy to hate on a TE that drops easy passes because he doesn't secure the ball first and doesn't pickup extra yards. Having TG was the worst thing for any future starting TE here in Atl because they would never live up to our expectations of him.

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