Toilolo ready to step in for Tamme

Levine Toilolo is ready to carry the torch at tight end for the Falcons if Jacob Tamme is lost for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury.

Toilolo has started the past two games while Tamme has sought a second opinion on his separated shoulder.

“I’m just trying to stay ready and play my role,” Toilolo said. “When I get opportunities, I obviously have to make the most of them.”

Toilolo, mostly a blocking tight end, has flashed in the passing game this season. He has seven catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s been patient,” Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “Levine has always had the ability to do it. It’s not necessarily something that we are doing special. He’s running his routes like he always does. Coverages have changed and other people have done stuff. He’s got open that way, and (quarterback) Matt (Ryan) has found him.”

The Falcons drafted Toilolo in the fourth round of the 2013 draft out of Stanford. At 6-foot-8, the Falcons’ personnel brain trust hoped that he’d turn into a red-zone threat.

He caught 11 of 15 targets as a rookie and scored two touchdowns. In 2014, when the Falcons tried to expand his role, Toilolo flopped. He caught only 31 of his 54 targets (57.4 percent) and score two touchdowns.

Last season, the Falcons didn’t bother much with throwing to Toilolo, who started 15 of 16 games and had only 12 targets.

Over the offseason, it was clear that Toilolo worked on his pass-catching.

“Throughout the offseason you work on routes and catching and stuff like that,” Toilolo said. “I don’t think I did any more than usual. That’s always been something that I’ve worked on.”

Toilolo has started 39 of 58 NFL games that he’s played in.

“I think just as you progress, things start moving slower out there and you get more comfortable,” Toilolo said. “The more you’re out there in game situations. … I think this year, opportunities have presented themselves, and I’ve been able to make the most of them.”

Toilolo doesn’t show up in the Falcons’ offensive tendencies, so teams have left him alone.

He was wide open on his 46-yard touchdown catch-and-run against Seattle. Toilolo also had plenty of room to work on his 32-yard touchdown catch against Tampa Bay.

He’s not just a blocking tight end anymore.

“It feels good,” Toilolo said. “I think as a tight end you are always trying to do your best to be balanced in both aspects of the game, blocking and receiving.”

Toilolo has no plausible reason for the rash of drops in 2014 that caused folks to question his pass-catching ability.

“I think as a ballplayer you always have confidence in yourself and your ability,” Toilolo said. “We have so many weapons here, it’s hard for defenses. The biggest thing is taking advantage of those opportunities. They come based on what the defense gives you. The offense is doing a good job of exposing them as they change week to week.”

Toilolo still does his share of the dirty work in the blocking schemes.

“It’s kind of the hard thing in our business for players. People are always going to judge you off how many touchdowns you have, how many catches you have, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing a lot better,” Shanahan said. “I was real happy with Levine last year. I am happy with him this year.

“Definitely more of his role for us has been blocking, but he’s not a blocker only. He can make the plays when we go to him, and he’s done a good job of doing that.”

Toilolo played one season with the great Tony Gonzalez and took note of his work ethic and how many passes he caught before each practice.

“The consistency is something that I noticed when Tony was here, and I got to spend time with him and see how hard he worked,” Toilolo said.

Shanahan hopes that teams continue to sleep on Toilolo as a receiver. He hasn’t started to see any double-teams yet.

“I hope he does,” Shanahan said. “That will open up someone else.”