The Falcons have more question marks than Riddler’s bathrobe. After a week where they could only run for one half, couldn’t pass effectively past the first quarter, couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t stop the pass and were fine but not spectacular on special teams, the big question for Atlanta may as well be “can they do anything effectively?”
That feels like a cop-out, though, and we have an upcoming column on Arthur Smith’s chances of righting the ship from Aaron Freeman that will address that in more depth. Knowing that the volume of questions is overwhelming, I’d like to focus on something that will impact both the offense and After last week’s “hey, can Jalen Mayfield hold up?” question was answered with an emphatic no, we’re going to switch our focus to another rookie with a lingering cloud of question marks around him.
Will Kyle Pitts be a major factor against the Buccaneers?
In his debut, Pitts was rarely a factor at all. He managed four catches for 31 yards—including a tough grab over the middle to convert on a fourth down, to his credit—but did so on eight targets and was not the terror we hoped he’d be right away. In many ways expecting him to be immediately dominant is unfair—that’s especially true when the entire offense was a mess—but as the highest-drafted tight end ever and a player with sky-high potential, those expectations come with the territory. No one, hopefully, is doubting the extent of his potential or what he’ll do in the weeks and years ahead, but the Falcons need more from him to make things interesting in the here and now.
It would help this offense a great deal if Pits was more of a problem in Week 2. Part of his appeal is that he is, in a one-on-one matchup even as a rookie, a difficult matchup owing to his speed, speed and athleticism alone. Teams often had to make this decision with Julio Jones, because the extra attention on him would free up opportunities for others, and the Falcons still have a capable cast of receivers even if it didn’t look like it last week.
More importantly, Pitts was a legitimate and lethal red zone weapon in college, and the Falcons have been unable to score when they get inside the 20 without relying on Younghoe Koo’s leg for way too long now. You can’t ask this man to solve all the team’s offensive issues by himself—that’s really on Arthur Smith and company—but he can at least mitigate a lot of them if the team puts him in a position to succeed and he can make things happen. Pitts will, of course, need time to run his routes and Matt Ryan to have time to throw, which makes what will likely be a weekly big question about the offensive line a factor here, as well.
If the Falcons can get Pitts going, especially in the red zone, there’s virtually no chance this team repeats its putrid 6 point performance even against a very good Tampa Bay team. From an enjoying this team perspective and from a rooting for this team to win perspective, Pitts is a key piece of the puzzle, and I hope to see much more from him this week. The question is whether he’ll find himself able to do so, given the team’s struggles a week ago and Tampa Bay’s tough defense, but I’m optimistic.