Falcons’ X-factor vs. Commanders: Replacing tight end Kyle Pitts

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

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

FLOWERY BRANCH -- With Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts on injured reserve, Parker Hesse and veteran MyCole Pruitt will seek to fill his role in the offense.

Hesse and Pruitt will be the X-factor for the Falcons (5-6) when they face the Commanders (6-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field.

Pitts will miss at least four weeks after he was placed on injured reserve.

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Hesse, who was a defensive end in college, has been used mostly as a blocker. He’s played in 11 games and made four starts. He’s caught five passes of 50 yards. He has played 410 offensive snaps (62%) this season.

Pruitt, who was a fifth-round pick by the Vikings in the 2015 draft, is in his eighth season in the NFL. He’s played in seven games and made one start this season.

Pruitt, 30, who played at Southern Illinois, has played in 86 NFL games and made 28 starts. He’s also more of a blocker. He has 50 catches for 519 yards and eight touchdowns over his career.

The Falcons will use different personnel groupings to replace Pitts’ pass-catching role.

“We got the right guys out there, and guys that can play multiple roles for us and have done it, with Pruitt, Hesse, (Anthony) Firkser and Feleipe (Franks) and (fullback) Keith Smith,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said.

Pitts has caught 28 of 59 targets (47.5%) for 356 yards and two touchdowns this season. He has three dropped passes, according to Pro Football Reference. Pitts caught 68 passes for 1,026 yards last season as a rookie with Matt Ryan at quarterback and was named to the Pro Bowl.

“There are a lot of things we can do to manufacture things in the different personnel groups,” Smith said. “All of our wideouts and we have (running backs Cordarrelle Patterson) and Avery (Williams).”

Franks has missed the past two games with a calf injury.

“We’ve got a lot of options,” Smith said. “... We’ll try to find different solutions.”

Pruitt played for Smith with the Titans from 2017-19.

“MyCole is a very good blocker at the point of attack in multiple schemes,” Smith said. “He’s got a good feel in space. Smart football player. Multi-sport guy. Played in a lot of big games.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 Bengals 35, Falcons 17

Oct. 30 Falcons 37, Panthers 34 OT

Nov. 6 Chargers 20, Falcons 17

Nov. 10 Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Nov. 20 Falcons 27, Bears 24

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

BYE WEEK

Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD