Stat corner: Falcons have tight end power

Falcons tight end Lee Smith (85) runs with the ball during the first half against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. (Ian Walton/AP)

Credit: AP

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Falcons tight end Lee Smith (85) runs with the ball during the first half against the New York Jets Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London, England. (Ian Walton/AP)

Credit: AP

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons must replace wide receiver Calvin Ridley’s production while he’s out addressing his mental-health issues.

The obvious place to look is the wide receiving corps, where Tajae Sharpe took over for Ridley against the Jets on Oct. 10 and Carolina on Sunday. He had solid games.

Sharpe, who was a fifth-round pick by the Titans out of Massachusetts in 2016, had five targets and made four catches for 53 yards (13.3) against the Jets. He was targeted six times and made five catches for 58 yards (11.6) against the Panthers. He had long gains of 17 yards in both games.

With Sharpe doing solid work and Russell Gage being an afterthought most of the season, the Falcons could switch more of the passing attack to the tight ends when they face the Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

Rookie Kyle Pitts turned in two spectacular games in victories over the Jets and the Dolphins. Hayden Hurst has been steady and Lee Smith has provided a spark in the passing game.

The tight ends -- Pitts (484 receiving yards), Hurst (142) and Smith (53) — have combined for 679 receiving yards this season, the most yards by a tight end group in the NFL in 2021.

Smith, a blocking tight end, has caught eight of his nine targets and has a touchdown. He’s on pace to have a career-high 19 catches. His previous high came in 2015 with the Raiders.

“Those guys all do different things for us,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said. “They’re able to function in the pass game and cause defenses, at least, to think about different things in which they can do.”

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Next Four Games

Falcons at Saints, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 7

Falcons at Cowboys, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14

Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18

Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28

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