Pitts accumulated his yards in multiple ways, showing elite contested-catch ability and the versatility to be moved inside and outside. The term “matchup nightmare” often is referenced in sports. Pitts is a terror for opposing defenses because players with his size and speed combination are rare. From the SEC to the NFL, teams haven’t figured out how to neutralize Pitts.
What will Pitts do as an encore? He won’t turn 22 until October. From a statistical standpoint, that Pitts managed only one touchdown was more a failure on the team’s part. His touchdown total almost certainly will increase in 2022.
Pitts stressed he has emphasized the mental aspect of the game, learning how to quickly diagnose and attack defenses. He’s also worked on getting stronger so he can be a more effective blocker.
“Mentally, I’m trying to get better,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement. Physically, I’m trying to get bigger, stronger, faster. (I’m working on my) blocking. The mental, trying to dissect coverage faster. ... The mental side helps you play faster, just knowing what the defense is going to do.”
Falcons coach Arthur Smith already is seeing changes in Pitts heading into his second season, mainly because of the natural comfort that comes after the first season.
“He’s not facing the unknown,” Smith said. “With all these rookies, everything is new to them. New environment, new team, staff, terminology. You see Kyle, you saw him as he progressed through last season. I’ve said it many times, he’s just scratching the surface. You see a different player and mindset. He knows what to expect, what we expect from him. I’ve been really encouraged so far.”
The Falcons are shrouded in questions, but Pitts is among their few clear-cut certainties. He’s a security blanket for new quarterback Marcus Mariota (and perhaps eventually rookie Desmond Ridder). He’s a focal point for opposing defenses, making life easier for first-round rookie Drake London and the congregation of new receivers the Falcons added this offseason.
“It’s different, but it’s great meeting new people,” Pitts said of the revamped supporting cast around him. “These are great guys. We’re really close. We’ve gotten close fast. We hang out a lot. It’s a new feel. We’re trying to bring camaraderie together and build chemistry.”
No timeline for Oliver
Smith reiterated there’s no timeline for slot corner Isaiah Oliver, who’s recovering from a knee injury. Oliver said his knee felt “good” after Friday’s practice. Smith complimented Oliver’s work ethic and explained why the team re-signed their former second-round pick despite his injury.
“He’s an intelligent football player,” Smith said. “Really embraced the role of playing that slot corner position. He can play on the outside if he needs to. He can drop deep if he has to. And he’s a good pressure player when (defensive coordinator) Dean (Pees) dials up the pressure with the corners.”
The Falcons held open practice Friday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a rarity for teams during OTAs.
“It was good,” said new linebacker Lorenzo Carter, a Norcross High School and Georgia Bulldogs product. “Having our fans out here, family and friends out here, it means more to let them see the work we’re putting in right now. Right now, we’re looking to communicate (at practice), make sure everybody is on the same page. Even if one person is wrong, if we’re on the same page, it’s all right. So that’s what we’re doing right now.”