Hooper ready to takeover at tight end

Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) beats Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Bradley McDougald (30) on a 2-yard touchdown reception during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack)

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (81) beats Tampa Bay Buccaneers free safety Bradley McDougald (30) on a 2-yard touchdown reception during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack)

Falcons tight end Austin Hooper has taken over as the team’s top tight end.

Hooper, in his second season after he was selected in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Stanford, had three touchdown catches last season.

Before training camp, Hooper drove from northern California to Los Angeles to work with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for three days.

“It was just an opportunity for me and him to get some work in,” Hooper said. “To build a rapport with each other and work on some things, some routes, timing wise together that we wanted to improve upon coming into the season. It was a good opportunity to get with Matt and get 100 reps with him.”

The Falcons have high expectations for Hooper.

“He had a real good rookie year, especially for not being here for OTAs,” tight ends coach Wade Harman said. “He had to catch up starting at training camp. It was a long year with us asking him to do all of that stuff. We put a lot on him and he did a really good job.”

Hooper is confident that he’s ready for the role.

“I’m comfortable,” Hooper said. “Playing in big games and in big situations, that was something that I was asked to do my rookie year. Now, that I’m even more comfortable in the system and more comfortable being an NFL player. I feel confident that I can be competent out there with the starting spot.”

Hooper has been battling in practice against strongside linebacker De’Vondre Campbell.

“Dre is a talented player,” Hooper said. “Really athletic and long. He can flip his hips really well. It’s a real challenge for me. There are not a lot of linebackers that are as athletic as he is. I get a good look every day.”