Reporters’ notebook: New role for Falcons’ Kyle Pitts

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) makes a catch during minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8) makes a catch during minicamp at the Atlanta Falcons Training Camp, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz / AJC)

The following, a weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find it informative, insightful and fun.

Robinson plans to use Kyle Pitts at wide receiver

Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson clearly is intrigued with how best to use tight end Kyle Pitts, who had his fifth-year option picked up by the team this offseason.

“There is so much in there, obviously, you guys see the athletic traits and what he can do when the ball is in the air,” Robinson said. “What he can do with the ball in his hands. I’m excited about him as a blocker. That’s untapped. He’s willing, and he wants to do it. He wants to be a complete tight end, which has been what he’s preached from the start.”

Pitts, who was taken with the fourth pick in the 2021 NFL draft, had a fast start to his career and appeared headed for superstardom. But Years Two and Three were not as productive.

“He has so much flexibility with what he can do even as an in-line blocker, then he’s split out wide,” Robinson said. “There is just a lot of versatility. He’s done a great job. He’s learning basically two different positions. There is some tight end, and there is some receiver. He’s got a lot on his plate, and he’s handling it really well. I’m just excited to see him get more comfortable in the system. The sky is the limit for what kind of season he can have.”

Robinson has used the OTA session to get creative.

“Really, your mind can go in a lot of different directions with somebody like that in a good way,” Robinson said. “We’ll move him around the formation. We’ll use him as blocker. We’ll use him as a receiver. We’ll use him all across the board. That’s something that a lot of these guys possess. Bijan (Robinson), Drake (London), (Darnell) Mooney and Charlie Woerner. The versatility of the group is really exciting.”

Hall in the doghouse for withholding information

Georgia Tech’s baseball team, and its fans, were on pins and needles Monday morning waiting to see if the Yellow Jackets had made the NCAA Tournament. Ahead of the NCAA’s selection-show broadcast on ESPN2, Tech gathered at Russ Chandler Stadium to await its fate ahead of a noon broadcast.

But Danny Hall, the wily veteran coach, had been told an hour before that his team was in the field of 64. He didn’t tell a soul – and he’s paying the price for that decision.

“I knew at 11 o’clock that day that we were in, but I chose not to share that. And I chose not to share it with my wife, so I’m still in trouble with her,” Hall said. “So maybe if I had that to do over again, I would have told her. But I didn’t.”

Tech went 31-23 during the regular season and was thought to be a bubble team by most national sites. It now appears they had built a resume strong enough to be a tourney lock despite losing four of its final five and going 0-2 at the ACC tournament.

No one wearing white and gold, outside of Hall, however, knew that Monday. And even though withholding that information put him in the proverbial doghouse at home, the jubilant reaction from his unsuspecting team when it saw “Georgia Tech” pop up on the screen about 12:30 p.m. was worth it.

“I just think it’s special when you hear your name called,” Hall said. “Did I expect that reaction? No. But liked it.”

Tech’s Black named an All-American

Georgia Tech third basemen Mallorie Black was named second team All-American by Softball America.

Black became just the third Yellow Jacket in program history to be named All-American, national player of the week (April 9) and all-region in the same season.

A Cumming native, Black led Tech in average (.373), slugging (.825) runs (54), hits (62), RBIs (61), doubles (18) and home runs (19). Black finished the regular season eighth in the nation in home runs, 11th in RBIs, 15th in slugging and 10th in total bases.

Cramped quarters

One of the quirks of playing in a temporary home like Inter Miami’s Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale is there aren’t always the spaces that teams are used to in their own stadiums, or in permanent homes such as Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After Atlanta United’s 3-1 win Wednesday, the postgame press conference was held in a very small room off the visitor’s locker room. At times, five people were crammed into the tiny space, including two reporters hovering just off-camera asking questions but trying not to lean into the frame.

Also in the room were people trying to hold up the background that is seen behind the interview subjects. Usually, the background will stay on the wall by using tape. For whatever reason, perhaps the heat and humidity, the tape wouldn’t hold up the background. So, at one point a reporter was asking questions while leaning against the background to try to keep it from falling down, while another person was on the other side also trying to keep the background from collapsing.

Trade speculation

Braves fans will be talking about trades endlessly over the next two months, especially with Ronald Acuña Jr. out for the season. But the players will try not to think about it.

“I’m going to do my job and let (president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos) worry about being GM,” catcher Sean Murphy told the AJC. “So, he’ll do what he thinks he needs to do. In the meantime, it’s the next guy. We’ll play with these guys in the clubhouse today and not worry about who or what it might look like at the deadline. Alex is going to do what Alex is going to do, and we’re going to play ball.”

All anyone can do is speculate about trade targets, but one potential fit is Angels outfielder Taylor Ward, who owns an .810 OPS and is under contractual control through 2026. It helps that Anthopoulos’ former assistant Perry Minasian is the Angels’ top executive, and the two have made deals before (Minasian is in the final year of his contract, but with the Angels’ season essentially already lost, he’d have little choice but to try adding to a long-depleted farm system). The Angels also have former Braves outfielder Kevin Pillar, who’s having an outstanding season (1.041 OPS in 83 at-bats).

Cousins is the X-Factor

Pro Football Focus named the Falcons’ 2024 X-factor: No surprise, it’s quarterback Kirk Cousins.

It said: “The high-priced part of Atlanta’s renovation at quarterback, of course, is Kirk Cousins. The veteran was on track for a career year before tearing his Achilles against Green Bay last season. Through eight games, he posted an 85.1 passing grade with 18 touchdowns. He thrives in play action, which should fit perfectly with running back Bijan Robinson and the team’s offensive line.”

The Falcons’ odds of winning 10 games boil down to whether this can be a top-12ish offense and a middle-of-the-road defense. It seems unlikely the defense could be much better given the personnel, but the offense – if Cousins is healthy – could be legitimately dynamic.

The Falcons, three-time reigning division champion Buccaneers and Saints all seemingly are in the same stratosphere, which should make for an interesting division race. In the same article, PFF took the over on 9.5 wins for the Falcons.

-Staff writers D. Orlando Ledbetter, Doug Roberson, Gabriel Burns and Chad Bishop contributed to this report.