Why Falcons ‘Star’ Rookie Kyle Pitts Didn’t Play vs. Titans

Kyle Pitts titans

Getty Kyle Pitts #8 and Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons together at training camp.

The Atlanta Falcons had their first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans on Friday night and many fans were hoping to catch a glimpse at first-round pick Kyle Pitts.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and for good reason, according to Falcons’ head coach Arthur Smith.

“Like I said earlier in the week, we feel like he’s right on schedule,” Smith told reporters following the Falcons 23-3 loss to Tennessee. “Wanted him to go through the routine of getting to the stadium, going through the warmups. Like I said, this week is going to be big for him, going down to Miami. It’s a very aggressive and very talented secondary. But like I said, Kyle is right on schedule. If we felt he was behind, we probably would have put him out there.”

A preseason game is a time where either rookies get a shot at stealing the spotlight or veterans fight for a starting job that might be open. It seems that Pitts has nothing left to prove, thus Smith is comfortable with his progress and would rather sideline him than risk an injury.

The Falcons also sidelined Matt Ryan, Hayden Hurst, Lee Smith, AJ Terrell, and most of the other first-teamers.

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AJ McCarron Made His Debut at QB

While Ryan was on the sidelines drinking coffee, backup AJ McCarron made his debut as starting quarterback in the exhibition game.

It wasn’t a pretty sight as he completed 5-of-12 passes for 36 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also ran twice for 11 yards and was sacked twice.

In just the first half, Atlanta was called for five penalties – three holding, one illegal block and one illegal formation, leaving Smith unhappy with the teams’ overall performance.

“We did a very poor job of executing,” Smith said. “We had way too many penalties that put us in a lot of bad, get-back-on-track situations. Clearly never got in a rhythm after that. I don’t want to overreact until we go back and see the tape. I thought the first ball coming out of AJ’s hand, he ripped it to Tajae (Sharpe) on one of those early third downs, and we got a penalty for illegal formation – tackle being too far in the backfield. Those are self-inflicted wounds, and I got to do a better job of coaching us. That’s the stuff that’s going to get you beat clearly. Tonight, we were not in a rhythm there.”

You can’t put the blame on McCarron since the offensive line failed to do their part, leaving it hard to find an open receiver.

“We didn’t do enough to help AJ,” Smith said. “You get out of rhythm. I don’t want to overreact. He got hit a few times, too. The thing is with AJ, the operation was a little cleaner, but there were no results behind that because of the entire picture of the offense in the first half. But you’ve got to give the Titans credit there defensively.”

Feleipe Franks Was a Fan Favorite

Undrafted free agent rookie QB Feleipe Franks was the star of the second half, despite completing just 2-of-9 passes for 16 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

“Second half, Feleipe, young guy, we want to be a little better operationally. But what Feleipe clearly showed is he can extend plays, so that was good to see,” Smith said

He also got sacked three times and ran four times for 76 yards, including a 52-yard scramble that fans went crazy over via Twitter.

Overall, we learned that Franks and McCarron are no Matt Schaub and the backup QB positon is a cocern right now, but Smith blames first-game nerves.

We’ll see what happens next week when Atlanta takes on the Dolphins in Miami for preseason game No. 2.





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