The calls to free Kyle Pitts are comical. I mean, free him by switching quarterbacks from Marcus Mariota to Desmond Ridder? Free him, meaning get him more manufactured touches? Free him, meaning the Falcons should feel bad for wasting his physical gifts and trade him? Regardless, these calls are coming from the tallest towers now, and I’m all here for it. ESPN’s Mina Kimes is the latest national media pundit to voice frustrations.
free Kyle Pitts!!! pic.twitter.com/Mxl1NbrQpw
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) November 17, 2022
Kimes’ stats are staggering. Pitts only has two drops on the season; Mariota has been off-target on 25% of his passes to #8, and that off-target rate has ballooned to 47%… That’s absolutely mind-blowing. Of all receivers and tight ends with at least 50 targets, Pitts is in dead last with 61.1% of those passes deemed catchable. The Falcons’ pair of top pass catchers are at a severe disadvantage with Mariota as signal caller.
More than the eye test, the numbers confirm said inaccuracies. He’s fourth-to-last in bad throw percentage (20.6%), with the third-lowest rate of passes dropped (2.7%). Essentially, that means there are only three quarterbacks — Carson Wentz, Zach Wilson, and Cooper Rush — who have a higher percentage of their throws categorized as ‘bad’ according to Pro Football Reference. And of all the passes thrown, only two throwers — Dak Prescott and Kenny Pickett — have had fewer of their balls dropped. That isn’t ideal.
The Falcons are just waiting to have a quarterback who can get Drake London and Kyle Pitts the ball consistently because right now, Atlanta has two Ferraris with a 16-year-old trying to drive them. And nobody knows if Desmond Ridder is going to make a difference; at this point, Kimes has a point — are the Falcons wasting the rookie years of these two studs? Because we didn’t have these concerns with Matt Ryan under center.
Pitts hauled in 68 receptions for 1,026 yards, an average of 15.1 yards per catch, en route to a Pro Bowl. He ranked tied for seventh in receptions but was third in receiving yards, giving him the highest yards per reception average among tight ends. The highest-drafted tight end in history became the first rookie tight end in 60 years to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and also became Atlanta’s all-time rookie receiving yards leader, a title previously held by Julio Jones for a decade. Pitts passed Tony Gonzalez for the most single-season receiving yards in team history from a tight end and was the first rookie tight end to make the Pro Bowl since Jeremy Shockey in 2002.
There are more of these “wow” stats, but in short, this downturn in production from Pitts is squarely on Marcus Mariota and Arthur Smith’s lack of faith in his quarterback.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire