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NFL Draft

Does Kyle Pitts Need To Play In The Preseason?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 23, 2021
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Atlanta Falcons fans have been asked to remain patient when it comes to getting their first official look at rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, who made history for being selected higher than anyone at his position when Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot drafted him with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

While rookies like Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Fields have given us plenty to talk about in recent weeks, Pitts has been quietly waiting in the shadows. He didn’t dress for the team’s first preseason game against Tennessee, and despite impressing in joint practices with the Dolphins ahead of their Week 2 matchup, Pitts didn’t feature in that game either.

That begs the question: Will Pitts play a single snap in the preseason? With Atlanta’s third and final exhibition contest against the Cleveland Browns set to kick off just 14 days before their regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pitts (and the rest of the starters) sit out against the Browns.

If Pitts doesn’t appear in the game against Cleveland, something that is starting to look likely at this point, he’ll be the only player selected in the top 10 of the 2021 draft to not play in an exhibition game. Although it would certainly be an anomaly, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith doesn’t appear to be worried.

“He’s coming along,” Smith recently told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “He’s right where he needs to be. That’s the best way to answer it.”

As someone who covered Smith in Tennessee for many years, I’m not surprised to see him playing it safe with Pitts (and other key players). It’s something Smith would have learned from Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, who has always taken a cautious approach with his key players as well.

For what it’s worth, Pitts has impressed at training camp, where his ability to climb the ladder and pluck the ball out of the air has routinely been on display. Although we’ve yet to see him in a game, Pitts has looked as advertised this summer. For now, Atlanta fans will have to wonder how their new-look offense will shape up in the post-Julio-Jones era under the guidance of one of the brightest young minds in all of football that is Arthur Smith.

At this point, there’s little to gain by playing Pitts in the preseason finale. Pitts’ biggest point of emphasis moving forward should be getting ready to suit up for the regular-season opener against the Eagles. Falcons fans may panic until then, but they have no reason to. It’s a touchy topic and certainly a unique situation, but let’s reserve judgment for at least a few more weeks.

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