Not that anyone needed confirmation that Kyle Pitts is a one-of-a-kind receiving threat, but PFF brought up another statistic showing off his incredible ability. Among 2021 rookies, Pitts ranks first in contested catches over the last two seasons and three ahead of the second place pass-catcher — Ravens’ rookie Tylan Wallace.
Most contested catches over the last two seasons (2021 rookies):
24 – Kyle Pitts (Falcons)
21 – Tylan Wallace (Ravens)
21 – Dyami Brown (Washington)
20 – Elijah Moore (Jets)
20 – Terrace Marshall Jr (Panthers) pic.twitter.com/ac45Pqtqgk
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 16, 2021
During Falcons minicamp, it was reported that Arthur Smith was already moving Pitts around all over the field. This is something I’ve been harping on… that Pitts will be used in many different alignments. I’ve gone in-depth on how exactly Pitts is going to be the centerpiece in this offense, and because he’s one of the best in the business at catching in traffic means his workload will only increase.
Pitts will be the focal point of Smith’s offense, even if Ridley is the team’s leading receiver because the former Florida Gator will draw more double-teams than his Alabama counterpart. Regardless of the alignment, Pitts will be draw double-teams against zone and man-to-man defenses. On the boundary, he’s much too strong and long for a cornerback but also too fast and agile for a linebacker or most safeties. With his hand in the dirt, it’ll be difficult for the defense to prevent a free release, enabling Pitts to be used in more ways than just traditional routes.
Falcons fans can expect a heavy dose of Pitts in this offense. It’ll depend on the situational matchups, but he’ll be attacking defenses at every alignment in the offense and running the entire route tree
In the NFL, passing windows are minuscule compared to college, and the fact that Pitts already displayed the ability to make contested catches at a high rate means the transition will be less difficult for him. Where I’m eager to see him used is in the red zone, somewhere the Falcons have struggled in recent years. Arthur Smith’s scheme and playcalling will help right the ship, given his track record in Tennessee.
Atlanta’s offense last year ranked 13th in the league with 3.8 red zone scoring attempts per game, but they ranked 26th in the league with a 53.45% red zone touchdown (only) scoring percentage. Of the five worst red-zone teams this year, Atlanta spent the most time there — 17 more trips than the Jets.
Comparing the red zone scoring of the Titans and Falcons is a better indicator of Atlanta’s shortcomings. To put things into perspective, one of the best offenses in the league last year — the Titans — ranked fourth in the league with 3.9 red zone scoring attempts per game. But it is not about getting inside the opponent’s 20-yard line; it is about converting red zone trips into touchdowns, which Tennessee did. 74.24% of red zone trips ended in touchdowns last year, good for second in the league. The Falcons only made it to the red zone a tenth fewer times per game but converted 20% less of those trips into six points.
Not only do the Falcons have a more capable play designer and caller than in years past, but Atlanta also has Pitts, whose record-breaking wingspan and contested-catch ability will help propel the Falcons — particularly in the red zone.