FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Losing standout tight end Kyle Pitts due to injury will be a major blow to the Falcons offense, especially during midseason with Atlanta in a race for the top spot in the NFC South.
The second-year pro was placed on injured reserve on Monday. Despite this adjustment in the offense, Arthur Smith has consistently emphasized his confidence in the depth he has in the tight end room.
Pitts' absence now leaves the Falcons offense with four tight ends on the active roster in MyCole Pruitt, Parker Hesse, Anthony Firsker and Feleipe Franks. Though, Franks and Firsker were both inactive against the Bears on Sunday, Smith said that he will continue to evaluate both players moving forward.
The Falcons signed tight end John Raine to the practice squad on Monday after placing Pitts on IR to help flesh out more depth.
Pruitt and Hesse have both fared well when called upon this season and will likely be Atlanta's primary tight ends moving forward.
Since Pruitt was signed to the active roster during Week 7, his offensive production has been solid all-around. His stats may not tell that story but if you ask Smith about Pruitt, he'll tell you why he's been vital to this offense since landing in Atlanta.
"MyCole is a very good blocker at the point of attack in multiple schemes," Smith said on Wednesday. "He's got good feel in space, smart football player, multi-sport guy, played a lot of good games."
Pruitt is a seven-year pro after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He has experience playing in Smith's offense during his time in Tennessee, one of the reasons why Pruitt is in Atlanta now.
"Just familiarity with Art and his system," Pruitt said. "I felt like it was a place I could come in and contribute throughout the way."
Sunday's victory against the Bears further indicated Pruitt's contributions.
Following the game, Smith said that Pruitt "stepped up big time" and that "there were little things, nuances in the game plan that he did that nobody will ever know."
That same sentiment applies to Hesse, who's played in 10 games this season with five receptions for 50 yards. Late in the third quarter against the Bears, Hesse fleshed out right, driving Bears' defensive back Kyler Gordon into the endzone which led to a Marcus Mariota rushing touchdown.
Those things don't show up on the stat sheet but they make all the difference in the Falcons' overall offensive production.
With Pitts out, it could lead to more of an expanded role for Pruitt and Hesse. The mindset, though, doesn't change for either going forward.
"I've been ready this whole time to take whatever is thrown at me," Pruitt said. "So, it's going to be that same approach. I've been taking the same approach this whole year, so that's just going to be the game plan."
It won't be easy to replace a player like Pitts, but the tight ends on the active roster will band together to try.
"You know you talk about earlier in the year with a guy like CP right? You had to fill that role with a few other guys. It's kind of the similar situation with Kyle," Mariota said. "You know, he turned into one of our better blocking tight ends. He's such a force in the passing game, so to fill that void you got to have a couple guys step up. We've got a great tight ends group and I think we're more than capable of doing it."
Take a look as the team puts in the work in Flowery Branch to prepare for this week's game against the Washington Commanders, presented by Gatorade.