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Kyle Pitts, Ta’Quon Graham placed on IR

Atlanta loses two talented young players, likely for the rest of the season.

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Falcons beat the Chicago Bears, but that win came with a price. Both Kyle Pitts and Ta’Quon Graham were injured—Graham left the game on a cart, which is never a good sign—and this afternoon we’ve learned that both players are headed to injured reserve.

In a flurry of afternoon moves, the Falcons added a defensive lineman to the roster, added a familiar face at tight end to the practice squad, placed Pitts and Graham on IR, and put rookie guard Justin Shaffer on the practice squad injured reserve. This is a grim Monday.

Pitts, who led the Falcons in targets with 59, is likely done for the season with what was reported as a torn MCL. He finishes the season with 28 receptions for 356 yards and two touchdowns, a down sophomore year in terms of production where he and Marcus Mariota often didn’t seem to be on the same page, but also one where he was utilized frequently as a blocker and commanded plenty of defensive attention as the most threatening option in this Falcons passing attack. Still just 22 years old, Pitts will be the centerpiece of the passing game in 2023 and beyond alongside Drake London, and hopefully he’s healthy again soon. The Falcons will sorely miss him the rest of the way.

That’s also true of Graham. The second-year defensive lineman has been a rock solid run defender and disruptor for a line lacking high-end talent, taking a major leap forward as a starter. Fans may remember the fumble recovery and subsequent fumble, but Graham has been one of the team’s most consistent defenders in 2022 and a clear building block for this defensive front, and replacing him is effectively impossible given the options the Falcons have on hand. Like Pitts, we wish him well on his recovery, and there’s little question this team is taking a major hit without Graham.

It’s likely Jaleel Johnson, who had spent time with the Falcons practice squad earlier this season and was a productive full-time starter along the Minnesota defensive front as recently as 2020, will step into a major role pretty quickly for this defensive line after he was claimed. The Falcons will step up snap counts for Abdullah Anderson, Timothy Horne, and Jalen Dalton, all of whom have been solid in rotational roles, and hope Johnson can join them in aiding Grady Jarrett up front.

At tight end, MyCole Pruitt is the likely beneficiary of a larger role, given his experience and comfort level in Arthur Smith’s offense. It’s very possible Atlanta’s tight end corps on Sunday against Washington will consist of nothing but former Titans, with Parker Hesse, Pruitt, and Anthony Firkser seemingly likely to pull down heavy snaps. John Raine may well be elevated, as well, especially if Feleipe Franks can’t go again this week. Obviously, nobody’s going to approximate Pitts’ value to the passing game, putting a lot of pressure on this team’s receivers to step up and deliver to keep things rolling.

These are tough losses for the Falcons, who are still hoping to make a playoff push down the stretch, and we’ll just have to see whether they can be overcome or not. Again, we wish both Pitts and Graham well on their respective recoveries.