Falcons: Hayden Hurst should thrive in Arthur Smith’s offense

hurst hayden 2020

Arthur Smith’s offense uses multiple tight end sets. 38% of the Titans’ play calls came out of a formation with at least two tight ends — 33% with two, 5% with three. But that is not the only reason Hayden Hurst will thrive in Smith’s system.

In Tennessee, Smith was coaching, in some capacity, the tight ends for seven seasons. In 2013, he was the assistant offensive line/tight ends coach. From 2014 to 2015, he dropped offensive line responsibilities to become the assistant tight ends coach. Then from 2015 to 2018, he worked under the tight ends coach title before becoming the offensive coordinator. So, Smith obviously knows the exact tight end that can execute the play and technique he needs.

Anthony Firkser is a perfect example of this. He isn’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest at his position, but Arthur Smith got everything out of him. Firkser was a legitimate #2 behind Jonnu Smith; among the Titans with at least 15 receptions, his 73.6 catch percentage was the best. He was their fourth-leading receiver in 2020 with 39 receptions for 387 yards and was 23rd among all NFL tight ends in receptions and 26th in yards. Firkser isn’t under contract in 2021, so he could be a possible free-agent target this offseason due to his familiarity with the system.

Smith also revived Delanie Walker‘s career and developed Jonnu Smith into a pro-bowl caliber tight end. Not only were the Titans’ tight ends dangerous in the passing game, but they were also lights out in the run game. There is no doubt Hayden Hurst, who is just as talented as Jonnu and Delanie, will improve his play under the former Tennessee offensive coordinator. He was finally featured in a full-time role after being traded by the Ravens, and he had a career year.

Hurst finished the season with 56 catches, 571 yards, and six touchdowns. Often split out as a receiver, he caught the third-most passes on the roster and accounted for the fourth-most receiving yards. Now, in his second year with Matt Ryan, he will look to build even more chemistry and surely be a focal point of this offense in 2021. Hurst is a receiving tight end, but he is a very willing blocker in the run game. His technique needs refining, but his new head coach is exactly the person who can help him.

But what about the others in the tight ends’ room? Well, with Jaeden Graham and Luke Stocker set to enter free agency, Hurst is the only one under contract for 2021. The Falcons will need to address the position in the draft or free agency, and they could use a few different types of tight ends too; 1) mainly a receiving threat, 2) receiving and blocking abilities, 3) mainly a blocking threat. For this offense to reach its potential, the position needs substantial bolstering.



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