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3 Up, 3 Down: Kyle Pitts has arrived

Keeping track of which Falcons are rising and falling throughout the 2021 season.

NFL: London Games-New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons will head into their bye week coming off a win and boasting a 2-3 record, which is considerably better than a 1-4 mark. Had things with Washington gone differently, Atlanta would have some serious momentum heading into their break, but the Falcons are still hanging around.

More importantly, there were some great performances from players who will really help determine how the rest of this season unfolds. So, let’s not waste any more time.

Up

TE Kyle Pitts

New York Jets v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

There’s the Kyle Pitts Falcons fans have been waiting for! Without Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage, the Falcons needed Pitts to step up and be The Guy for an afternoon, and the No. 4 overall pick delivered. He caught nine of the 10 passes thrown his way, including an awesome one-handed catch, for 119 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Pitts hasn’t had the blistering start that many predicted, but this was a massive step in the right direction when the Falcons needed it most. Most importantly, Pitts seems to have earned Matt Ryan’s trust, so outings like this should hopefully become a bit more frequent. Through five games Pitts is Atlanta’s leading receiver with 308 yards, which puts him on pace to reach 1,047 yards in a 17-game season. Not too shabby.

S Jaylinn Hawkins

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets - NFL London Games 2021 - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

The Falcons and Jets were the only two teams without an interception entering Sunday’s game, and thanks to Jaylinn Hawkins that honor rests solely with the Jets. Hawkins stepped in front of an errant Zach Wilson pass and did what so many Falcons haven’t been able to – hold onto the ball. With Erik Harris missing the game due to injury, Hawkins was thrust into a starting role and he performed splendidly. Hawkins earned the highest defensive grade from PFF, which gave him an elite 90.7 and an 89.6 coverage grade. In the moments Hawkins has been called upon this season he has really come through. After Sunday’s showing, he will likely be an even bigger part of the defensive rotation and the future of this organization.

G Chris Lindstrom

Atlanta Falcons v New York Jets - NFL London Games 2021 - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images

This spot can largely be extrapolated out to the entire offensive line for keeping Matt Ryan clean against a defense that had the fourth-most sacks in the league coming into the game, but Chris Lindstrom gets the special shoutout because he’s been on an absolute tear this season. Lindstrom is consistently among the top-graded Falcons from each game, and he’s been so reliable on the right side so far in his third year. Big things were always expected from Lindstrom, but he’s done an incredible job improving with each year in the league. Not since Jake Matthews have the Falcons had such a promising young offensive lineman to get excited about, and Lindstrom may yet have another level he could reach.

Down

RB Mike Davis

NFL: London Games-New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not sure if this is completely fair to Mike Davis, because he did have somewhat of a bounce-back game on Sunday. If we’re looking big-picture, though, it’s clear Davis’s stock is dropping. That’s partially due to the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson and partially due to what Davis is doing with the opportunities he’s being given. It’s not that he’s been bad, but Davis just hasn’t been very impactful as part of this offense. Couple that with the fumble he had against New York and that lands him a spot on this list. Hopefully things get turned around for Davis, and I do believe the team will continue to give him carries, but he hasn't had a truly big game just yet.

LB Deion Jones

NFL: London Games-New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Putting Deion Jones on this list might come as a surprise for some, but having watched him closely over the last few weeks it’s clear that he’s not playing at his highest level. There have been missed open-field tackles and Jones’s impact in coverage has been minimal. Things will likely turn around for Jones this season because he’s too good of a player not to get it sorted out, but against a team like the Jets, it’s unusual that he wasn’t making plays all over the field. Jones did lead the team with five tackles, but five tackles isn’t a great showing for a player as dynamic as he is.

Kickoff Coverage

NFL: London Games-New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is a blanket inclusion for the kickoff unit. For the second week in a row, the Falcons nearly allowed a kickoff return for a touchdown at the beginning of the second half. There is no more deflating way to begin the most crucial half of a game than by allowing a kickoff return for a touchdown, and it sparked a bit of a run for a Jets team that had been completely disheveled through the first two quarters. Get it fixed, Atlanta.