With the 2014 NFL Spring Training underway, SBG takes a look at the Atlanta Falcons in their camp in Flowery Branch, Georgia. Levine Toilolo is the leading prospect of tight ends to replace Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer in the NFL.
Thus far, Toilolo, who is 6 foot 8 and weighs 265 pounds, has had no problem shoving the blocking sleds around. I am sure he wished the task of replacing Gonzalez was that easy! The real question is can a second year tight end from Stanford fill the spot vacated with the retirement of Tony Gonzalez. He had a very unique talent that is set in the history of the NFL. A tight end that changed the position he played, by using a skill set he learned from basketball to a receiver.
The management of the Falcons and their QB Matt Ryan have tried to relieve some of the pressure on the young Toilolo by stating it will take the combination of several players to replace the skill Gonzalez possessed and some of those skills aren’t available to our players.
In his last season 2013, Tony Gonzalez had a team leading eight TDs with 83 catches for 859 yards. As a rookie back-up Toilolo had some 11 receptions for a total of 55 yards and two of the receptions were for TDs which showed his potential as a Red Zone target for scoring.
During the offseason the Atlanta franchise added some veterans to the staff in Pascoe, who started six times for the Giants in 2013, and Shuler, who had two starts for the Dolphins. They also have rookies Wozniak and Pederson, both from the University of Wisconsin who are competing for positions with the Falcons.
The staff claims Toilolo is the favorite to get the starting spot and he is well aware that it’s hard to duplicate and replace a Tony Gonzalez with his production and career statistics.
QB Ryan has said the Toilolo can make a definite impact near the goal line both as a blocker and as a receiver with the improved strength that he has displayed thus far in training camp. Thus, the Falcons staff has started to implement some of their red zone plays and that is certainly a place where Toilolo can make an immediate difference. He is a big man with long arms and they can use him as a matchup.
Their coach Smith says more than just tight ends will be needed to replace the production of Gonzalez as he was a super productive player in his career and especially with the Atlanta Falcons. Therefore, several tight ends may get opportunities to participate and they may also distribute the ball to other players.
So, Falcons fans who bet on the NFL and use an offshore sportsbook, don’t be surprised if there is no immediate solution to the loss of Gonzalez to retirement. Currently, the Falcons are listed in NFL futures odds at +3850 to win the Super Bowl, and +1825 to win the NFC. They are +310 to win the NFC South, and are projectored to win 8-9 games this year. Clearly, the oddsmakers see the team as a longshot to win it all, where they will probably end up as a middle of the pack also-ran mediocre team.