Kyle Pitts knows he’t not seeing much of the ball for the Atlanta Falcons so far during the 2022 NFL regular season. The tight end who set franchise records as a rookie has started his second year with a mere four catches through two weeks.
Pitts’ latest vanishing act occurred during the 31-27 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams. This came after he was barely used against the New Orleans Saints a week earlier.
The player has responded to his reduced role in a new-look offense led by quarterback Marcus Mariota. So has head coach Arthur Smith, although his response may not please those who are eager for Pitts to be more involved moving forward.
Pitts Talks Reduced Role
Things aren’t going his way after he made just two catches for 19 yards against the Rams, but Pitts is looking to himself for improvement, per Josh Kendall of The Athletic: “I’m just playing my part, contributing when I can and that’s it. I just have to win my matchups a little better and when the opportunity comes my way, make the most of it.”
While it’s commendable of Pitts to put the responsibility upon himself, many will feel the bigger issues are play calling and execution. Those things are the purview of Smith, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and Mariota.
Even so, Pitts is prepared to be patient and not heckle his coaches and QB for more work: “I’m not going to the coaches and yelling. I’m not going to Marcus (Mariota) and yelling. It is what it is. It’s a long season. Definitely, I am frustrated with myself because I am a hard critic on myself. That’s just a me thing. I just want to perform at my highest ability.”
For his part, Smith sounded defiant when he addressed the absence of Pitts in this season’s passing game, per Falcons beat reporter Tori McElhaney:
Regardless of Smith’s bullish claims, there’s no doubt the Falcons are wasting arguably the most talent pass-catcher on the roster.
Falcons Not Doing Enough to Involve Pitts
Four catches through two games could be explained away by Pitts seeing more double coverage in his second season. Yet, not everybody is convinced Pitts is suffering because of attention from opponents.
Instead, Aaron Oster of The Kevin Sheehan Podcast believes Smith’s scheme is making poor use of Pitts’ talents:
It would be smart for any defense playing the Falcons to make Pitts a marked man, but that focus doesn’t explain how few times Mariota is throwing to his best weapon. Pitts has only been targeted 10 times in two weeks, according to Kendall.
The number has left many observers, including The Ringer’s Bill Simmons to wonder where Pitts has gone:
Others, like Field Yates of ESPN, thinks it’s time to directly ask the Falcons to get Pitts more involved. Yates’ suggestion may sound overly simplistic, but making Pitts more of a factor needn’t be complicated, even though Mariota has other playmakers around him.
Specifically, rookie wide receiver Drake London is already establishing himself as somebody who can gain yardage in chunks. The eighth-overall pick in this year’s draft snagged eight of Mariota’s passes for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Rams.
There’s every reason for Smith and Mariota to want to get London the ball, but the dynamic wideout’s presence should create one-on-one matchups for Pitts.
Having Pitts lined up against single coverage should make Mariota’s decision for where to throw a foregone conclusion, according to Fox 5 Atlanta’s Miles Garrett:
The Falcons appear to have forgotten about Pitts’ level of dynamism. He’s a 6’6″ 245-pounder who moves like a wideout and is a size and speed mismatch at every level of defenses.
Sometimes it can be just as simple as putting the ball in Pitts’ area and trusting him to go and make the play. Getting back to this straightforward formula would not only unleash Pitts.
It would also help erratic Mariota turn some promising output by the offense into a few wins.