On the outside looking in, the Atlanta Falcons seem to have a plethora of weapons to work with on offensive, but you can never be too sure.
That’s according to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell who isn’t sold on the Falcons 2021 offense and ranked them No. 23 overall in his pre-season offensive rankings.
He cites concerns for Calvin Ridley’s foot, trading away Julio Jones, and Kyle Pitts‘ transition to the NFL:
“Atlanta still has one star at wide receiver in Calvin Ridley, but if Ridley’s foot issues linger into the season, the depth chart at wideout would be absolutely horrific. Russell Gage was a perfectly acceptable third wideout behind Jones and Ridley, but casting him as the No. 1 with Olamide Zaccheaus or Christian Blake as the No. 2 would be the worst set of starting wideouts we’ve seen in the NFL in several years.
New coach Arthur Smith, who was the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, might lean more heavily on 12 personnel, and Falcons fans will rightfully expect No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts to be a star in his first NFL season. I’m optimistic about Pitts’ long-term chances, but history tells us to be skeptical of even the best tight ends during their rookie years.”
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Ridley’s Foot Injury Is Nothing to Worry About
We learned last month that Ridley underwent surgery on his foot, but it was nothing to be too concerned about.
It was just minor,” Ridley told reporters following the Falcons’ morning walk-through. “I can walk and all that right now. I’m taking it one day at a time.”
Despite not being up to full speed during minicamp, Ridley was still behind the scenes doing everything he could to prepare for the 2021 season.
“[It’s} regular, with meetings and treatment,” Ridley said. “I did walk throughs. You just didn’t see me on the field. I’m doing regular things. I did a walk-through just before I came in here. I’m right where those guys are.”
Athletes play through injuries all the time, so even if this “minor” foot injury continues to linger, it shouldn’t leave Ridley missing a chunk of the 2021 season.
Training camp kicks off next week and Ridley is expected to be back to 100%, so we’ll keep an eye on footwork.
Kyle Pitts Is an Exception to the TE Transition
In just eight games, Pitts finished the 2020 season reeling in 43 catches for 770 yards, and 12 touchdowns. Now he’ll make the tough leap to the NFL, which many talented tight ends have struggled to do.
It’s rare to see tight ends post All-Pro or Pro Bowl seasons right out of the gate because it normally takes a year to adjust to such a faster-paced game.
NFL tight ends are tasked with honing their blocking, catching, and route-running skills.
San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle is a good example of the tough transition as he was drafted out of the University of Iowa in 2017 and didn’t see his first Pro Bowl and second All-Pro year until the following season. During his second season, he set the Niners’ franchise record for receiving yards in one game by a tight end (210) and become the first Niners tight end to surpass 1,000 receiving yards. He also broke Travis Kelce’s single-season receiving yards record for a tight end, finishing 2018 with 1,377 yards.
However, Pitts is a different beast entering the NFL than Kittle or many of the other star tight ends in the past, and with the Falcons expected to run two-tight end formations, Pitts should get plenty of chances to shine.