The Falcons started their offseason workouts this week and got to work without one of their key offensive players from recent years.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez averaged 81.8 catches, 837.4 yards and 7 touchdowns over his five seasons with the Falcons, but he’s retired to become a television commentator. That leaves an inexperienced group of tight ends on the roster led by the 6-8 Levine Toilolo, who caught 11 passes during his rookie season. There’s no doubt that the Falcons are looking for more growth from Toilolo in his second NFL campaign, but quarterback Matt Ryan was quick to point out that they aren’t asking him to do the impossible.
“We don’t need him to be Tony,” Ryan said, via the team’s website. “We need him to be the best Levine Toilolo he can be.”
While the Falcons are rightly hopeful that wide receiver Julio Jones’ return to the lineup will boost the offense, the loss of Gonzalez’s production is tough to overstate for a team that made such frequent use of his talents. Toilolo probably isn’t going to turn into the second coming of one of the best tight ends in the history of the game overnight, but he’ll help a tremendous amount if he can develop into a productive starter even as the Falcons offense evolves next season.