How will Arthur Smith deploy Kyle Pitts in new-look Falcons offense?

ddn1910123745 florida at lsu

Kyle Pitts is a unicorn, and you’ll continue to hear that for the entirety of his career. His combination of size, speed, agility, athleticism, and catch radius make him one of the most diverse weapons in the NFL. Similar to the way Andy Reid uses Travis Kelce, Arthur Smith can deploy Pitts as a wide receiver. Or how Kyle Shanahan uses George Kittle, Smith can deploy Pitts as a traditional in-line tight end. Or how Greg Roman uses Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle, Smith can deploy Pitts in the backfield. Pitts can do anything his new head coach could ask of him, so here we will explore the endless possibilities.

We can only use the information provided to us, which is Smith’s time in Tennessee as the Titans offensive coordinator. What worked in his time there may not work in Atlanta because of the differing personnel. The identity of his offense won’t change, however; he’s not going to mold his system to something different because he has a surplus of talent at receiver. He’ll acknowledge the differences in personnel and create a new offense using the same principles he did with Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, etc., but Kyle Pitts will have a significant role in it.

Pitts can line up as the X, Y, or Z positions, and as the X, the defense will dictate who — a cornerback, safety, or linebacker — travels with him. If the defensive coordinator runs more zone, it’ll likely be a cornerback. If the scheme calls for man-to-man, it’ll likely be a safety or linebacker. Regardless of the coverage, Pitts as the X receiver can run the entire route tree. He’s able to beat a corner, safety, and linebacker on a five-yard slant and take it to the house. Pitts can also box out a corner, safety, and linebacker in the red zone for a one-on-one fade in the endzone. As the Y or Z, Smith can use Pitts in space as a blocker for sweeps and bubble screens on smaller defensive backs.

Jonnu Smith was Arthur Smith’s most athletic tight end last year and out of his 63 targets from 2020: eight were curl routes, seven were seam routes, seven were slant routes, seven were drag routes, six were corner routes, six were flat routes, six were out routes, four were screens, three were deep crossing routes, one was a post route, and eight were described as “other” — probably unusual variations of the routes listed. Pitts is going to run every route imaginable aligned from everywhere.

Usually, tight ends, who can’t consistently beat man coverage, are targeted against zone defenses. In fact, Jonnu Smith was targeted twice as much last year against zone than he was when the defense was in man coverage. Pitts won’t have the issue of beating man coverage, though. As a tight end with his hand in the dirt, Pitts can be used as a blocker, receiver, or decoy.

The routes are a bit limited when lined up next to the tackle, but there are man beaters and zone beaters at every alignment. Drag and flat routes are man beaters, while curl and seam routes are usually used for tight ends to find the soft spot in the zone. Even though Smith’s offense threw mostly intermediate passes, Pitts is an incredible vertical threat. He can beat man or zone at all three levels, creating limitless possibilities for Arthur Smith. Few can guard Pitts one on one in this league, which means less attention for Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones… this offense is going to be special.


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