Falcons’ Arthur Smith on Kyle Pitts: ‘He played a little banged up’

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

PHOENIX — Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to bounce back from a down season.

“Kyle coming into this league with an enormous amount of hype like a lot of guys that are taken that high,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said Tuesday at the NFL owners meeting. “He had a very productive rookie year. We were obviously playing with Matt (Ryan). We threw the ball, give or take, almost 200 times more.”

There was a drop-off in targets – 110 to 59 – as the Falcons moved to Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder at quarterback. However, there was a drop-off in Pitts’ catch percentage from 61.8 to 47.5.

“But that’s not Kyle’s fault,” Smith said. “We missed some opportunities with him this year. He played a little banged up. Obviously, didn’t finish the year.”

Smith is expecting Pitts to bounce back.

“The thing that gives you a lot of encouragement is that he’s actually done it,” Smith said. “It’s not me selling you some hypotheticals. Two years … of trying to blow smoke. So, we are expecting the next step for him as he comes back from his knee. Couldn’t be more excited about Kyle and his future.”

Jaylinn Hawkins’ role: With the signing of Jessie Bates III at free safety, Jaylinn Hawkins is out of a starting spot.

Hawkins, who was taken in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, has played in 42 games and started 22, including 16 last season.

The Falcons can use him as a big nickel back in some packages.

“Hawk is a valuable member of our football team,” Smith said. “There will be opportunities, I promise you. I know you want the depth chart right now.

“We are not ready to give you the depth chart right now. But he could play in a lot (of) personnel groups. A lot of teams play in a lot of 11 personnel (three wide receivers), so you are seeing a lot of five (defensive backs), six (defensive back) packages.”

The return of Eddie Goldman: In one of the surprise moves of the offseason, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman unretired.

“With Eddie, we are excited,” Smith said. “Eddie is a guy that we had some familiarity with. Talking to Eddie last summer, he signed his contract and then decided that he didn’t want to play. So, we put him (on) the reserve/retired list.”

After missing a season, Goldman changed his mind.

“His agent called and said he wants to come back,” Smith said. “We had a discussion with Eddie, and we decided to bring him up (to the roster). He was under contract, and we were excited about the opportunity.”

Goldman, 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds, will add some beef along the defensive line. He’s played in 81 NFL games and made 73 starts over six seasons with the Bears.

Injury update: In addition to Pitts, eight players ended the season on injured reserve.

Smith said he expects them all to be ready for training camp: running back Caleb Huntley (Achilles), wide receiver Jared Bernhardt, tight end John FitzPatrick (feet), offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield, offensive guard Justin Shaffer, defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham (knee), safety Jovante Moffatt (calf) and cornerback Casey Hayward (pectoral surgery).

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