When you're the tallest tight end in the NFL, your height is expected to be used as a weapon. That's a lot to ask of a rookie, but Atlanta's fourth-round pick, Levine Toilolo, spent the past two days at Falcons rookie minicamp showing how he can use that size.
"He's hard to miss out there," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Sunday. "He did a nice job in improving his understanding and his route running. I thought he caught the ball well."
At 6-foot-8, Toilolo is the tallest tight end currently in the league and height like that makes for a good target anywhere on the field, but especially inside the end zone where the length of the field becomes much smaller and the only way to go is up.
"Obviously, his efficiency in the redzone is well documented," Smith said of Toilolo. "To throw the ball to a guy in the red zone, you want to make sure he's going to catch the ball. I think that kind of says what kind of hands he has."
Toilolo caught 50 passes in his career at Stanford and 10 of them were touchdowns, but coming into the draft most described the tight end as a block-first player. Smith said his size creates such a label and he lives up to it, but having a player like future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez at tight end means that position is going to be a key part of the offense and Toilolo will be expected to catch passes as well. The opportunity to work with Gonzalez is a big plus for the rookie.
"It's going to be fun to watch him be mentored by Tony Gonzalez when Tony gets in here," Smith said.
Toilolo is among a crowd at tight end behind Gonzalez. Chase Coffman and Tommy Gallarda return to the Falcons after time with the team last year. Adam Nissley and Andrew Szczerba will join Toilolo as the competition behind Gonzalez, Coffman and Gallarda.
When Toilolo wasn't on the field Saturday and Sunday running through plays, he was off to the side, getting coached by tight ends coach Chris Scelfo. Like many players, he had good moments and moments he'd like to do over, but his attitude remained positive and he continued to return to Scelfo for direction after each series.