Atlanta Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis: Wide receivers/tight ends

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC

Wide receiver Drake London discusses the options the Falcons will feature on offense during the 2023 season.

Editor’s note: This is the third of an eight-part position-by-position series analyzing the Falcons’ roster before the rookies report on Tuesday for training camp. The veterans report July 25.

When Falcons training camp starts, wide receiver coach T.J. Yates needs to pass out name tags.

The wide receiver group was over-hauled over the offseason and it will take everyone a little time to get a first-name basis.

“We definitely have a lot of new faces,” Yates said. “The room looks a lot different than it did last year. I think we’ve improved as a whole.”

The Falcons signed veterans Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller and Penny Hart in free agency while Olamide Zaccheaus signed with the Eagles and Damiere Byrd with the Panthers.

KhaDarel Hodge was re-signed and Frank Darby returns. The Falcons also have wide receivers J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Chris Blair, Slade Bolden, Josh Ali, Keilahn Harris and Xavier Malone.

The Falcons did not select a wide receiver in this year’s draft.

Miller flashed his deep speed over four seasons with the Bucs.

“I’m excited to come here and work with these players,” Miller said.

He also had some tips for Drake London, who had a strong rookie season.

“Drake is similar guy to Mike (Evans), so I always talk to him about different things that Mike did,” Miller said. “Mike has obviously been in the league a long time and has had a lot of success. I was just trying to give him some things, some tools that Mike did to be successful. He’s great in his own right.”

Whiteside, who was a former second-round pick by the Eagles in 2019, was signed after a tryout. He is trying to revive his career.

“He’s still a hungry guy who comes in and works every day no matter what the situation is,” Yates said of Arcega-Whiteside. “Again, He’s another bigger, stronger guy. A veteran guy who’s got a lot of experience.”

Yates will have the task of blending together all of the new players.

“The chemistry is really good so far,” Miller said.

London will lead the wide receiver group.

“Just having a full healthy offseason has been a big thing for him,” Yates said. “He was fighting through some injuries coming out of the draft last year. For him to just be fully healthy and go out there, play and compete ... full speed. It’s been great for him.”

London, who was taken eighth overall in the 2022 draft, caught 72 of 117 targets (61.5%) for 866 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie.

“He hasn’t had to worry about that other stuff that comes with injuries,” Yates said. “Just his maturation process and learning defenses on the other side of the ball. Reading coverages and finding out little small details that are going to help him get open and help him win.”

Hodge knows all of the positions and was a stalwart on special teams in 2022.

“He’s one of the three or four guys that we brought back who knows the offense,” Yates said. “(We’re) bringing everybody else along. He’s been a huge help. He’s coming out to compete every day because he knows the opportunity that he has to contribute to this team.”

The Falcons are hoping for a return to good health for tight end Kyle Pitts, who’s coming back from knee surgery. Falcons coach Arthur Smith noted that Pitts “played a little banged up” last season.

With the switch from Matt Ryan to Marcus Mariota at quarterback, there was a drop-off in targets from 110 to 59. There was also drop-off in Pitts’ catch percentage from 61.8% to 47.5%.

“For Kyle, it’s not his fault,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said. “The injuries occurred and things of that nature. The most important thing for all players is to put the work in. If you’re not able to put the work in because of injury, then you just get yourself right physically and mentally.”

Pitts did not participate in any of the offseason sessions that were open to the media.

“You want to be hitting on all cylinders when Week 1 starts,” Ragone said. “There’s a build-up process. There is a way to go about things in the training room or on the field.”

Also, the Falcons traded for tight end Jonnu Smith. He had his most productive seasons while playing for Smith in Tennessee.

“Just letting me push the needle and keep climbing,” Jonnu Smith said. “That’s what we are doing. He’s always demanded the highest standard out of me. He’s why I’ve had so much success in this league.”

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons’ 90-man roster analysis:

Part 1: Running backs

Part 2: Offensive line

Part 3: Wide receivers/tight ends

Part 4: Defensive line

Part 5: Linebackers

Part 6: Secondary

Part 7: Special teams

Part 8: Quarterbacks

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

The AJC’s projected depth chart

OFFENSE

QB – Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside

RB – Tyler Allgeier, Bijan Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson, *Caleb Huntley, Carlos Washington Jr.

FB – Keith Smith, Clint Ratkovich

WR – Drake London, KhaDarel Hodge, Frank Darby, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Chris Blair

TE – *Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, Parker Hesse, Feleipe Franks, *John FitzPatrick, Tucker Fisk

LT – Jake Matthews, Barry Wesley

LG – Matt Hennessy, Kyle Hinton, Matthew Bergeron, *Jalen Mayfield, *Justin Shaffer

C – Drew Dalman, Ryan Neuzil, Jonotthan Harrison, Jovaughn Gwyn

RG – Chris Lindstrom, Jovaughn Gwyn

RT – Kaleb McGary, Tyler Vrabel, Joshua Miles, Ethan Greenidge

WR – Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, Slade Bolden, Josh Ali, Keilahn Harris, Xavier Malone

DEFENSE

OLB – Lorenzo Carter, Bud Dupree, DeAngelo Malone

DE – Grady Jarrett, Timothy Horne, LeCale London

NT – Eddie Goldman, *Ta’Quon Graham, Carlos Davis

DE – David Onyemata, Joe Gaziano, Ikenna Enechukwu, Albert Huggins

OLB – Calais Campbell, Ade Ogundeji, Arnold Ebiketie, Zach Harrison

ILB – Kaden Elliss, Dorian Etheridge, Tae Davis, Andre Smith Jr.

ILB – Troy Andersen, Mykal Walker, Nate Landman, Mike Jones Jr.

CB – A.J. Terrell, Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips III, Breon Borders, Natrone Brooks

FS – Jessie Bates III, Jaylinn Hawkins, Micah Abernathy, Lukas Denis

SS – Richie Grant, DeMarcco Hellams, Clifford Chattman

CB – Jeff Okudah, Cornell Armstrong, Tre Flowers, Dee Alford, Darren Hall

NB – Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips III

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Younghoe Koo, Matthew Trickett

P/H – Bradley Pinion

LS – Liam McCullough

PR – Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Penny Hart and Josh Ali.

KOR – Cordarrelle Patterson. Carlos Washington Jr.

Note: Players who ended the season on injured reserve have an asterisk.

The Bow Tie Chronicles

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Drake London (5) participates in a drill during minicamp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts runs the ball during the third quarter as wide receiver Drake London looks against the Carolina Panthers in Atlanta.
 Miguel Martinez / miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

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