The Giants attempted to fully rebrand their offensive style during the 2020 off-season when Joe Judge was hired as head coach. The team seemed to put a premium on toughness, culture, and an effective running game from heavier personnel packages.
Jason Garrett, the Giants new play-caller, was going to implement more power/gap and counter, as opposed to Pat Shurmur’s inside zone rushing scheme.
To ensure that his popular counter trey run would work as a base run play, Garrett needed multiple tight ends who can block.
Evan Engram is much more of a receiving threat than a blocker, albeit he’s developed a bit in the blocking area of the game. Kaden Smith was a quality find on waivers while showing good development as a blocker over the last two seasons.
The Giants had two younger tight ends who weren’t known for their blocking, so Dave Gettleman went out and pursued a veteran tight end who can be relied on as a blocker; this is where Levine Toilolo joins the Giants.
Toilolo has been in the league since 2013 and was always known for his blocking. He’s a gigantic 6’8, 268-pound man who was ready to play significant snaps for the Giants after toiling away in San Francisco, playing only 60 snaps in 2019.
The problem with Toilolo and his blocking ability was that it wasn’t anywhere near some expectations.
His pass blocking percentage was the second-fewest in his career; the direct role for Toilolo was on these important runs--over 90% of his blocking snaps were as a run blocker. However, he failed to prove to be a consistent, reliable blocker.
Toilolo played in 276 offensive snaps. New York decided to restructure his contract after the season to retain him on the roster at a cheaper price.
If Kyle Rudolph is healthy enough, Toilolo may find himself more limited than in 2020. Toilolo saw 152 2020 snaps on special teams, which was the most for him since 2017; he will likely have to execute those assignments at a high level to consistently dress on Sundays.
Let’s dive into Toilolo's "Good, the Great, and the Ugly."
(Levine Toilolo is No. 85.)
The Good: Effective Once Engaged
As you’ll see in this article, Toilolo has incredible issues with his balance upon engagement into contact. He finds himself on the floor far too often due to his high center of gravity, his marginal play strength, and his reactive quickness.
However, if Toilolo can get his hands inside and use his big frame, he can hold up long enough for the running back to make a decision.
Toilolo has a 7-Technique over the top of him on the back-side of the run. He steps to the play-side at the snap and gets his outside arm on the breastplate of the blocking assignment.
Toilolo then flows laterally with the direction of the play, framing his block well and not allowing the defender to disengage. Getting that hand inside is important for Toilolo, who struggles with sustaining blocks if he can’t cleanly engage.
While facing more of a 6-Technique on this play, Toilolo’s job is to seal the EDGE of the outside shade.
The big tight end quickly gets his inside arm underneath the defender's shoulder pads, and he works to his outside portion; this eliminates the defender from the outside rushing play due to the angle and Toilolo’s ability to seal the EDGE.
The struggles with engaging blocks that you’ll see a bit later in this article are assisted when Toilolo is the second engaging blocker in double team situations.
While working with Andrew Thomas (No. 78), Toilolo can attack the inside slanting 7-Technique and take away his outside responsibilities by driving through the half-man.
The defender slants right into Thomas, allowing Toilolo to take advantage of his outside shoulder.
Toilolo has these types of capabilities in his game, but the situation just has to be advantageous for him, and he has to be more consistent with shooting his hands and establishing contact.
MORE "GOOD, GREAT & UGLY" BREAKDOWNS
The Great: Size
Having unique size for a position can get a player so far; Toilolo is in the 98th percentile for height at the position, the 75th percentile for weight, the 93rd percentile for arm length, and the 80th percentile for hand size.
Possessing rare size at the tight end position will assist with blocking and will provide a big target to quarterbacks in the middle of the field.
He doesn’t use his large catch radius on this play, but Toilolo makes a body catch and shows his ability on quick play action passes. He is not a threat as a receiver, but he can always leak out to the flat, or in the middle of the field, and be a big target for Daniel Jones.
Toilolo’s lack of nimbleness and overall athletic ability doesn’t allow him to maximize his wide catch radius in red-zone or third-and-short situations.
Toilolo shows the concerns with initially whiffing on the blocking attempt early in this play before he recollects himself and locates his second-level defender.
Toilolo uses his size and cuts any angle off, and then he closes width while creating an alley outside in the defender’s run fit.
This play shows a little bit more than just size, although the angle is cut off from Sean Lee (50) in part because of size. Toilolo does show some good lateral movement skills to kick out and locate in space.
He lead-blocks and does a solid job from the play-side of the run. He doesn't overrun his assignment, and he’s much more controlled; it’s a solid play from someone who tends to struggle with balance at the point of attack.
The Ugly: Balance
There were good plays with Toilolo above, handling double team transitions well, but this is not the case.
He gives away a clear path while trying to transition with Kaden Smith (No. 82), and the defender makes Toilolo pay by disengaging his block and allowing the big tight end to hit the deck. This happens far too often in Toilolo’s tape.
His technique isn’t controlled most of the time, and he lunges far too often, leaving himself open to hard counter moves or moves that will put him on the deck, like the hard club to the outside shoulder we see above.
Toilolo is on the right side of the screen, going against a linebacker on the edge. Watch how he lunges into contact. His hands are wide, his feet aren’t balanced, and underneath him--these are consistency problems that lean negative for Toilolo throughout his film.
We see a similar thing below against the Seahawks in the next clip.
It’s a bit more understandable for these issues to arise at the second level, but it happens too much on the line of scrimmage. Here are some balance issues that Toilolo had through the 2020 season while engaged with second-level defenders.
These clips are slightly different; some are picked up blitzes from linebackers, and others are located at the second level. Some of the clips aren’t all that bad either, and he executes his assignment well enough.
However, Toilolo still shows the propensity to lean too far forward while exposing his chest, which gives defenders easy cloth to grab and rip down to the ground.
It’s a part of Toilolo’s game that he struggles to prevent because of his size and sub-optimal reaction quickness.