Who will lead the Falcons in touchdowns?

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Last season, Calvin Ridley was the Falcons breakout star in the absence of Julio Jones. He led the league in end zone targets, deep-ball targets, and intended air yards. As far as who would lead the team in touchdowns, there weren’t any competitors on the roster, but that might have something to do with the offense’s struggles in the red zone.

Last year, Atlanta’s offense ranked 13th in the league with 3.8 red zone scoring attempts per gamebut they ranked 26th in the league with a 53.45% red zone touchdown (only) scoring percentage. Of the five worst red-zone teams last year, Atlanta spent the most time there — 17 more trips than the Jets. This makes as to why the Falcons were second in team end zone target share.

Going to one player like Ridley is fine if you’re scheming him open, similarly to how the Packers use Davante Adams — in motion, in bunches, etc. It is the reason why Smith’s offense was so much more efficient than Dirk Koetter’s group. The Titans ranked fourth in the league with 3.9 red zone scoring attempts per game last year. 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.

One big difference? End zone target share. The Falcons’ top three in 2020 were Ridley (38%), Russell Gage (18%), and Julio Jones (16%). In comparison, the Titans’ record-breaking offense had a top-three target share of Jonnu Smith (27%), Corey Davis (24%), and A.J. Brown (18%). A much more balanced attack is more difficult to defend — having Derrick Henry also helps.

Still, this can help us project what kind of target share the Falcons 2021 receiving core will have, and inherently, we can assume the leader will catch the most touchdowns because he receives the most targets. Basing it off Smith’s offense last year, it would be Kyle Pitts, Ridley, and Gage in that order. Obviously, these offenses are run by the same mind, but they’ll be different. However, though the personnel is different, Pitts will still be targeted more than Ridley and Gage because he’s a generational red zone target, and tight ends are Smith’s soft spot. I fully expect Pitts to lead the team in target share in the end zone; whether that correlates to touchdowns is a different story, but that is where my money would be.


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