The Falcons held their first open organized team activities session at Mercedes-Benz Stadium today, giving fans an up-close look at the players vying for roles on the 2022 team. That’s a cool opportunity for fans more than anything else, but as you’d expect, there were a few interesting observations worth breaking out from the day courtesy of the reporters there.
Let’s jump right in. If you were there and saw anything cool, be sure to share it in the comments!
Feleipe Franks working at tight end
While Franks wound up finishing the 2021 season as Matt Ryan’s backup, his future in the NFL is probably not going to be just at quarterback. Arthur Smith and company made it clear in deeds if not words that Franks would get time at multiple positions, as he lined up as a quarterback and tight end during his limited snaps in 2021, and also chipped in on special teams.
With Desmond Ridder in the building as the team’s potential long-term starter and a very capable stopgap in Marcus Mariota, Franks is going to be the third-string quarterback at best this year. Knowing that’s the case and still very much in love with his size and speed, the team appears to be willing to supercharge his Taysom Hilling and give him a longer look at multiple positions.
Could be something, could be nothing: Feleipe Franks (far left) with the tight ends at open practice. Arthur Smith did say we’d see some players in different places. pic.twitter.com/sF1DxasdPZ— Kelly Price (@thekellyprice) June 3, 2022
Franks will likely still serve as the team’s de facto third quarterback this year—the team liked him enough in his rookie season to have him at the position—but any real playing time is likely to come at other positions. As Kevin Knight notes, Franks is a good athlete for the tight end position, so if he can take to it effectively he could be an interesting option there. Of course, that involves picking up a lot of the finer points of blocking, route running, and catching the ball, so it may be some time before we see him getting any kind of regular playing time there.
Not weighing in on the merits of Feleipe Franks at TE, but here's his RAS at that position. He'd also be a very good athlete there, though his weight is very low. https://t.co/psCBNCWGC6 pic.twitter.com/AC8SJahQCU— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) September 27, 2021
I imagine Franks will wind up getting a handful of snaps at quarterback, lined up out wide, and even perhaps running the ball, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye on his progress at tight end. If he and fellow hyper-athletic project Brayden Lenius (recently imported from the CFL) can become even solid enough backup options to go with Kyle Pitts and John FitzPatrick over the long haul, the Falcons will be pretty happy.
Isaiah Oliver making progress, but there’s no timetable yet
Oliver was one of last year’s early feel-good stories until he got hurt and unfortunately missed the majority of the 2021 season. He’s working his way back from that injury, and if all goes well, the expectation is that Oliver will once again man the nickel spot where he was thriving in the early going last year.
It’s not clear when Oliver will be back, per Arthur Smith, but it sounds like he’s champing at the bit to get there.
Arthur Smith didn’t offer a timeline on Isaiah Oliver’s return from injury but said no one has been working harder to get back.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) June 3, 2022
The Falcons re-signed the cornerback this offseason.
The Falcons are strong at cornerback with A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward starting and plenty of interesting competition down the depth chart, but obviously a healthy Oliver can and will be a difference maker for this group. We’ll hope to see him sooner than later.
The Kyle Pitts hype train is going full steam
We’ve been hyping Kyle Pitts here, and for good reason, given that he’s one of the most gifted players at the tight end position in the NFL and is coming off a pretty strong rookie season.
It’s not exactly newsworthy to say the Falcons have high hopes for Pitts, but Arthur Smith is certainly hyping him up in his own fashion, as well.
“As you’ve seen with Kyle, as he progressed through last season – I’ve said this many times – he’s just scratching the surface. You see a different player and mindset.”
No matter what the Falcons do in 2022, so long as Pitts is healthy he’s going to put a spectacular season together. Even if we’ve only made it as far as OTAs, it’s impossible not to be excited about that.