The Falcons have not determined the quarterback position. Despite many fans clamoring to see Desmond Ridder, the rookie hasn’t played a single regular season snap, and there’s no evidence to suggest Arthur Smith is benched. Marcus Mariota. Teams are only as good as their quarterback. Just ask the Colts, who built one of the most balanced rosters in the league last year, to miss the playoffs because of Carson Wentz. The Falcons could have their franchise quarterback in Ridder, but we won’t know until we see him play. In that same breath it seems Justin Fields is a franchise quarterback.
Atlanta is set to host Chicago and Fields today when the former Roswell High School star returns home. The Bears’ offense has been tweaked in recent weeks to better accentuate Fields’ electrifying playability, and the early returns are encouraging for Chicago. After starting the season rarely putting him in a position to succeed, the Bears’ ethos shifted completely to a run-dominated offense with play action complemented by a passing offense. In the same territory as Tua Tagavailoa and Marcus Mariota, the Bears stepped up play action drops for Fields, and it worked. The former No. 11 overall pick is seventh in the entire league in rushing yards with 749.
The most obvious scenario in this game is for the Falcons to pass on Justin Fields in favor of Kyle Pittswho was only disappointing this season. After a record-breaking rookie season en route to the Pro Bowl, Pitts has only two games with four or more catches, a stark difference from his freshman campaign. But it’s not his fault.
The Falcons completely changed their offensive philosophy as a result of the trade matt ryan. Atlanta turned to the running game with a less reliable Marcus Mariota at quarterback. No one runs more often than the Falcons other than the Bears; they hold the top two spots for the highest percentage of their current offensive games.
A year ago, no one questioned the selection of Kyle Pitts. He posted a 1,000-yard season and was doing so without any real league experience; the sky seemed to be the limit. Now, in a heavily loaded Falcons offense, everyone is wondering why Atlanta made Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in history. He blocks on most of the team’s plays, and when targeted Mariota usually misses him, posting a 30% off target rate. Pitts is a Ferrari and is used as a work truck to hit bodies with linebackers and defensive ends in the racing game. It’s downright sad.
The Falcons had Matt Ryan and appeared to be trying to compete when the team selected Pitts. At the time, the Falcons had Julio Jones and Calvin Riley on the team. Adding someone like Pitts to the receiving core had mouths salivating. Fast forward to the present, and the choice makes much less sense. The Falcons aren’t passing the ball because they don’t have a reliable pitcher in Marcus Mariota and have an obvious need for a quarterback — enter Justin Fields.
Hindsight is still 20/20, so it’s a bit of a silly exercise to review the 2021 NFL Draft, but I don’t think it’s completely pointless. At the time of draft, it made sense to bring Kyle Pitts to maximize Ryan’s twilight years in Atlanta. Arthur Smith wanted to compete and Pitts was the best player available; I still have no problem with the selection. But that may turn out to be bad if Fields turns into an elite quarterback.
Photographer: Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire