Without Gonzalez, Falcons must alter how tight end position is used

Levine Toilolo should get more red-zone opportunities for the Falcons in 2014. But the way Atlanta uses the tight end position, post Tony Gonzalez, is going to change drastically.

Daniel Shirey

ATLANTA — The next Tony Gonzalez is not walking through door to play tight end for the Atlanta Falcons.

When Gonzalez called it quits after the 2013 season, he left a void in Atlanta’s offense. How could he not?

Gonzalez never caught fewer than 70 passes in a season while in a Falcons uniform, and pulled down at least six touchdown passes each and every season for five years. He averaged 81.8 receptions, 837.4 receiving yards and seven touchdowns per season since he arrived in 2009.

But now he’s gone, and it’s easy to understand why fans want the Falcons to do their best to replace Gonzlaez with the next great pass-catching tight end.

That’s not in the Falcons’ plans, not even close.

The New Orleans Saints have Jimmy Graham, the closest facsimile to Gonzalez in the game today. When Rob Gronkowski’s healthy, he gives the New England Patriots a Gonzalez-like feel too. After Graham and Gronkowski, Jordan Cameron catches a lot of passes. As does Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Vernon Davis.

The Falcons have five tight ends on their camp roster: Bear Pascoe, Jacob Pedersen, Mickey Shuler, Levine Toilolo and Brian Wozniak. Pascoe led the group last season with 12 NFL catches. Add the combined total from Pascoe, Toilolo and Shuler (Perdersen and Wozniak are rookies), and you get 23 catches last season, and 51 career grabs.

The Falcons are going to truly miss Gonzalez in 2014.