There are a lot of expectations on the shoulders of rookie tight end Kyle Pitts. The Atlanta Falcons made him the highest drafted tight end in history when they selected him fourth overall in April.
Some analysts have called him the best tight end prospect they had ever scouted.
We got just a brief glimpse of what he can do in the preseason. Pitts was held out of action along with most of the starters in all but one series.
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He had one catch for 27 yards against the Browns in the Falcons third preseason game. He showed off his next level speed when he out-ran angles against a linebacker and defensive back for the big gain.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has worked closely with Pitts during training camp, and he's us impressed with how quickly Pitts has come along.
"I think he's done a good job," said Ryan. "I think he's in a good spot. Coming into game one, I thought, training camp was really good for him. I thought from understanding the offense, where he was at, at the beginning of it to now, he's come a long way."
Ryan is entering his 14th season with the Falcons, yet he still understands the excitement of a season opener.
"All of those rookies, your first time it's new, it's exciting, you're nervous, you're all those things but my point is, it doesn't change in year 14 either," said Ryan. "It's always exciting. Let’s make sure we have a good week of practice, enjoy the moment, and I think he’ll be just fine."
Ryan has played with his share of great receivers and tight ends, most notably Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez, who played five years in Atlanta. Ryan's experience with a wide variety of receivers can help Pitts transition from college to the NFL.
"I think every player is different, everybody's got their own unique skill sets," said Ryan. "You try and get a feel for a guy’s strengths as quick as possible. I'm clear with him about where I think certain throws are going to hit versus certain coverages, and how he should expect it."
"He listens and he's constantly taking in information. One of the things you do with guys like that is sometimes, you just give them what they need to know because sometimes it can be overwhelming, but he's really done a good job for us during camp."
Ironically, Pitts' first game as a pro will come against his home-town Philadelphia Eagles. Ryan is also from Philadelphia, but he joked that the two had a very different Q Rating when they were high school players there.
"People actually knew him when he was in Philadelphia," laughed Ryan. "I was flying under the radar in high school. So, yeah, it'd be cool for him."
"I'm sure growing up there and having family and friends still back in that area. I remember, for me, we played up there my rookie year and so that was a unique experience. It'll be a really fun experience for him."
The Falcons went 0-3 in the preseason with only a handful of starters seeing action. Head coach Arthur Smith hammered on the fact that he was more interested in development of young players and evaluations for roster spots down the depth chart.
Kyle Pitts is a young player, but he was deemed important enough to the 2021 season early in training camp that he was protected with other Falcons starters such as Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Grady Jarrett, Deion Jones, and Jake Matthews... all Falcons captains.
Falcons fans and the rest of the NFL will get their first real look at Pitts and the new-look Atlanta offense on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Ryan thinks Pitts is ready for the spotlight.
Is the NFL ready for Pitts?
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