Jonnu Smith on Falcons’ versatile tight end room

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Before the legal tampering period began on Monday, the Falcons swung a trade to acquire Jonnu Smith from the Patriots in exchange for a seventh-round pick. 

Despite being one of the best playmakers at the tight end position, Smith had struggled to establish himself in New England. He posted back-to-back career-best seasons with the Titans in 2019 and 2020, resulting in a four-year, $50 million deal to join the Patriots.

Unfortunately, Smith couldn’t reach those marks with New England, never recording more than 300 yards or one touchdown over the two seasons. The 27-year-old caught 27 passes for 245 yards and zero touchdowns last year; in 2021, he caught 28 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown.

However, he’s back with the man that coordinated those offenses in Tennessee who enabled him to shine. Jonnu Smith and Arthur Smith are reunited in Atlanta.

“It’s poetic honestly,” Jonnu Smith said, via the Falcons team website. “It was so good to see Art, man. Just to see him accomplish all of this [becoming Falcons head coach], he deserves every bit of it. He’s the hardest worker in this business that I know at that position and he’s going to continue to reap the benefits of it.”

There might not be a coach in the league who knows Jonnu Smith better than the Falcons’ head coach. After being drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft, [Arthur] Smith worked intimately with him as his position coach for the first two seasons of his career, then went on to coordinate the offense for two more seasons. After spending four years together, the pair parted ways.

“He just came in with so much desire and determination to make me a better player,” Jonnu Smith said, via the Falcons team website. “And not only that, but he was just like a big brother to me. We took on that relationship all throughout my entire career and he’s just been so instrumental through this process and through this journey and we made it happen.”

During his time in Tennessee, [Jonnu] Smith accrued 1,302 receiving yards, 114 receptions and 16 receiving touchdowns — 887 yards, 76 receptions, and 11 receiving touchdowns coming in 2019 and 2020. Now, he’ll join a unicorn in Atlanta — Kyle Pitts, who is also from Philadelphia.

“We’re from the same area so we kind of understand a lot of the same things and see things from the same perspective,” Jonnu Smith said of Kyle Pitts, via the Falcons team website. “It’s going to be great working with Kyle man, and I’m excited to work with not only him but everybody in that room.”

The pair form arguably the best tight end room in the league because of their complementing skillsets.

“All those guys have different skillsets. I think that’s the most unique thing about this game,” Jonnu Smith said, via the Falcons team website. “It’s not individual players out there playing. We’re playing together as one and we’ve got to be in sync. We all bring a different dimension to the game and each one of our abilities, talents, and skillsets are going to allow us to go that much further.”

He’s right; the Falcons tight end room is incredibly versatile. Jonnu Smith has been heralded for his run-after-the-catch ability, but he’s a reliable blocker and red zone target as well. Moreover, he’s able to align anywhere on the field, including in the backfield.

On the other hand, Pitts is a generational pass catcher, who can run the entire route tree, catch anything close to him and hurt defenses after the catch too. Then, there are the less sexy tight ends like Parker Hesse, who do the dirty work that propels one of the best rushing attacks in the league.

It’s a complete position group. Atlanta’s tight end room has a breadth of talent, headlined by Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith.

Photographer: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
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