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Press conference takeaways: Arthur Smith will give young players time to prove themselves

Atlanta’s head coach responds to Monday’s pressing questions and big problems.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After a disastrous Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons looked to rebound in Week 2. Although there was some obvious improvement made, the team ultimately fell to the defending Super Bowl champions 48-25.

With 15 more games to go in the regular season and a 0-2 record, the Falcons have but a short time to turn things around, as the likelihood of a playoff berth seems distant. Here are some initial takeaways from Smith’s Monday press conference.

Thoughts on how the team performed in Week 2

As mentioned, the Falcons lost 48-25, in a game where they were only down 28-25 at one point. Furthermore, the Falcons were down early 28-10, so they clearly showed some glimpses of a team that was competing in between the mess.

“You don’t find out about people until you have some sort of struggle,” Arthur Smith said. “You don’t find out about the culture of a team until you get back, and there’s no such thing as moral victories but I do appreciate the way these guys fought. You go down, especially in the second half with 28-10, guys kept swinging. Guys made plays but ultimately we didn’t make enough plays to win, and that’s why it ended the way it did. They made the plays and we didn’t.”

Giving young guys a chance to prove themselves

In Week 1, rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield was a disaster. The stats and eye tests back this up, and Mayfield finished with an insanely low 1.4 pass blocking grade from PFF. In Week 2, the Falcons continued to roll with Mayfield at left guard, seeing minimal improvement against a extremely tough Buccaneers’ defensive front. Smith shared his outlook on allowing young players to experience growing pains.

“You look at [Jalen] Mayfield, the same plan that we had to bring him along got expedited,” Smith said. “We had injuries, and he went in there and played much better. That’s why I said last week, you don’t jerk the wheel with guys like that, you gotta give them a chance to improve, so he’s not all the time looking over his shoulder at one mistake. At some point during the season or during a game, if things are going really wrong, then maybe you gotta shake things up. But I want to give guys the chance to bounce back and play through mistakes, as a rookie in their first game.”

The punting situation is up in the air

After years of stability at the position, the Falcons find themselves struggling at punter. Last year the team drafted Sterling Hofrichter, who went on to be injured/waived this offseason and started the season with Cameron Nizialek who had yet to record a regular season punt. Week 1 was fine, but against the Buccaneers Nizialek had a series of poor punts which cost the Falcons in the field position game. Although there’s an expectation that the team will bring in competition this week, Smith touched on his outlook for the punting job.

“Like with every position, we’ll continue to churn the roster if we believe it’s best for it,” Smith said. “We have to evaluate it no different than [Jalen] Mayfield last week. Cam [Nizialek] would probably be the first person to tell you that there’s a couple kicks he’d like back. But we’ll access that throughout the week, but that’s every spot. If there’s ways we think we can upgrade this roster, we will.”

Kyle Pitts continues to grow in the offense

It wasn’t all bad, as rookie tight end Kyle Pitts looked to grow a little bit more in Week 2, finishing the game with 5 catches for 73 yards. On Monday, Pitts touched on his growth over the last two weeks.

“Just being able to recognize coverage a little better,” Pitts said. “Just trying to figure out the small details to make my game better each week, because I know it’s something I can improve on each game. Just small things like that.”