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Levine Toilolo could play key role in Giants’ running game

Veteran tight end has reputation as quality blocker

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams
Levine Toilolo
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Levine Toilolo played the fewest snaps (191) and special teams (75) of his seven-year NFL career in 2019 for the San Francisco 49ers. Yet, the New York Giants gave the soon-to-be 31-year-old a two-year, $6.2 million contract ($3.225 million guaranteed) this offseason.

What gives?

Let’s take a closer look at Toilolo as we begin winding toward the end of our profiles of the players the Giants will bring to training camp.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-8
Weight: 268
Age: 31 later this month
Position: Tight end
Experience: 7
Contract: Year 1 of two-year, $6.2 million deal | Guaranteed: $3.225 million

How he got here

A fourth-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2013, Toilolo has had a successful — if unheralded — career.

Toilolo has 97 career catch for 996 yards (10.3 yards per catch) and 8 touchdowns. He caught a career-high 31 passes for the Falcons in 2014. Toilolo, though, is considered primarily a blocker at 6-8, 268 pounds. He ranked only 26th among tight ends in run blocking in 2019, per Pro Football Focus, but has in the past had elite seasons in that regard.

Toilolo, who attended Stanford (like Giants teammate and also ex-49er Kaden Smith), has been to Super Bowls with both Atlanta and San Francisco.

2020 outlook

With blocking tight end Rhett Ellison having retired, Toilolo likely will take on many of Ellison’s responsibilities. With a new head coach in Joe Judge and offensive coordinator in Jason Garrett, how the Giants will deploy tight ends remains uncertain.

“I always think the more tight ends on the field, the better,” Toilolo said after signing with the Giants. “I think the tight end position is a unique one in terms of you can have so many different body types and different athletes out there. You can ask them to do a wide range of things. Whether that’s in the blocking game or the receiving game. Even nowadays, you see tight ends lining up in the backfield as kind of a fullback or H-Back types.

“I always enjoy watching all different tight ends. You see them in different places in the offense. The game is always changing, and it may not always be like that but the game changes throughout time. It’s definitely a fun time to be a tight end.”

At the top of their tight end depth chart, the Giants feature Evan Engram, the smaller, faster, more modern receiving tight end, Kaden Smith, pretty much the traditional dual tight end in body type and athletic profile, and the skyscraping Toilolo, who is a blocker first and not that far from being the size of an offensive tackle.

“I’m pretty comfortable wherever they need me. I’ve had different roles. In Atlanta, I’ve been in the backfield as far as whether it’s lead blocking or floating around. But like you said, I’ve been in-line, I’ve been flexed out a little bit,” Toilolo said. “Obviously as a player, you’re always working to improve on all aspects of your game. Even though I may not have been out there a lot, I think obviously throughout the season and offseason, it’s definitely something that I stay working on. If the team needs me to go wherever, obviously, I’m open to that.”

Having won only nine games the past two years, the Giants can use a player like Toilolo who has been around winning environments.

“For me, one of the biggest things that I can definitely point out from the two teams that were successful was just the bond between the players and teammates, and just how close everyone was in the building. Not just player to player, but even the players to coaches. Everyone was pretty tight. When you’re able to build those relationships off the field and you can kind of come together and you’re kind of playing for more than just yourself. You’re playing for your brother next to you and for your coaches and stuff like that. That’s something that people may not really be able to see on the outside, just kind of the relationships that you have and that you’re able to build, and how that can really translate to on the field.”