Collectively, the Atlanta Falcons boast one of the best tight end groups in all of football. I’ll give each their due via a special edition Featured Falcon Friday.
Replacing the greatest tight end of all time was never going to be easy for the Atlanta Falcons. Trying to replace Tony Gonzalez with a single player has been near-impossible. This year’s tight ends; however, have shown that Gonzalez’s production can be recreated through a committee approach.
Falcons’ tight ends account for 57 catches, 770 yards, and 10 touchdowns
As a unit, the 2016 Falcons’ tight ends account for 57 catches, 770 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Those numbers would respectively rank 5th, 4th, and 1st at the position, thus proving the whole has been greater than the sum of parts.
The Atlanta Falcons enjoyed Jacob Tamme as starter before his season-ending shoulder injury in Week 8. Prior to his injury, “the most hated man in the league“ tallied 22 receptions for 210 yards and three touchdowns. While Atlanta has missed Tamme’s veteran presence on the field, ‘the other guys’ have made up for the lost production.
“California Cool”, Austin Hooper has shown the ability to attack the seams of opposing defenses. He also showcased his athleticism when he hauled in a jump ball for his third touchdown of the season against the 49ers. Injuries recently halted the rookie’s progress, but in a short time, Hooper has given fans glimpse of what his future holds.
Levine Toilolo may be best remembered for his admirable job in handling emergency left tackle duties vs the Vikings in 2014. Toilolo remains the best blocker among the tight end corps, but he’s added another dimension to his game as of late. The tight end once referred to as Levine Toi-NoNo leads the Atlanta Falcons in yards per catch with a 20.5 clip.
But wait, there’s more.
UDFAs Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialavea joined the party last weekend, becoming the 12th and 13th different Falcons to notch a touchdown reception this season. In one of the more impressive catches you’ll see, Perkins flashed the athletic ability that earned him one of the final roster spots to open the season. As for Tialavea, the practice squad call-up hauled in his first career catch, in his first career game, for his first career touchdown.
Not bad for a guy who slept on a basement floor and worked 15 hours a day just last year.
From 2009-2013, the Atlanta Falcons had the luxury of Tony Gonzalez on the roster. On gameday, Gonzalez left no doubt in the minds of fans in terms of expectations. His time in an Atlanta uniform can best be described in one word: reliable. The future Hall of Famer averaged 82 catches, 837 yards, and 7 touchdowns in his five seasons with the Falcons.
Following Gonzalez’s retirement, the Falcons attempted to replace his production with with another former Pac-12 tight end in Toilolo. Atlanta used a fourth round pick on Toilolo, but his experiment as the feature starter lasted all of one season.
A new coaching staff brought in some reinforcements for 2015. Enter Tamme, a 2016 third round pick on Hooper, and UDFAs Perkins and Tialavea. In Tamme, the Falcons acquired a wily veteran who would serve as the bridge to the younger tight ends. Unfortunately for Jacob and the team, that bridge had to be lowered sooner than expected.