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Falcons Daily: How Hayden Hurst is fitting into Arthur Smith's offense

"This is definitely unique:" Tight end enjoying diverse role moving around formation, plus updates on Jalen Mayfield, Falcons injuries

Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst #81 smiles during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday August 11, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst #81 smiles during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday August 11, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Kyle Pitts moves around the Falcons formation, lining up in several spots to find mismatches.

Too many forget he isn't the only tight end currently doing that. Hayden Hurst also has the versatility to play that role, which allows for great flexibility within a given formation. While his role isn't identical to Pitts, Hurst can line up most everywhere.

His snap count versus Philadelphia proves that point. He played 43 offensive snaps, with 24 as an in-line tight end, 14 as a slot receiver and five out wide. He played on both sides of the formation trying to help the offensive line or assist the passing game.


Head coach Arthur Smith has a reputation for using multiple tight ends and using their diverse talents in creative ways, meaning Hurst has an ever-expanding role he has enjoyed since the offensive system was installed this spring.

"This is definitely unique," Hurst said. "With all the different positions – we're all over the place. It's a lot, but I like the challenge."

Playing more position-less football, using diverse skill sets in unorthodox ways, has been a point of discussion all week in Flower Branch. Smith uses Pitts and Hurst in unique ways. He's doing the same with Cordarrelle Patterson, a career receiver now turned full-time running back.

Being able to legitimately threaten when going four-wide from "22" personnel, for example, isn't something every team can do. The Falcons can thanks to the talent available, which allows creativity to reign in both the running game and the passing game.

"I don't think there's any secret, some of the things we do and the way we play," Smith said. "All those guys I mean, those roles, they evolve as the season goes on."

Smith has these tools at his disposal. Now the players must go execute well, certainly better, starting Sunday against Tampa Bay.

That includes the tight ends, which stands as the deepest, most well-rounded offensive position group.

"The offense goes through our room," Hurst said. "The things we're able to do, between me, Kyle and Lee [Smith], playing out wide and helping the offensive line, is important. If we can do our job and execute, it makes everyone's job easier."

Hurst believes he can thrive in this role, serving several functions to the offense. It also gives him opportunities to shine during a contract year.

"It helps me put myself out there and show I can do all sorts of things," Hurst said. "Heading into free agency and all that, the more that I can do will help add value to my name."

It also uses his talents well, even if prepping do execute from several positions can be mentally taxing

"His willingness to embrace the role has been fantastic," Falcons tight ends coach Justin Peele said. "He can run. He has good speed and quickness. He can play at the line of scrimmage and has the mentally that he can block and wants to get better there. He has done a great job."

Bair's post-practice breakdown

-- I tried to come up with something as catchy as Tori's Tidbits and struck out. Dang. Bair's breakdown will have to suffice on a day where I'm taking over the Falcons Daily. There are, however, a few more items to discuss from Friday's availability, including this bit of news:

While head coach Arthur Smith didn't announce that Jalen Mayfield would remain the first-team left guard, he made it clear the rookie would get a shot to improve on a forgettable NFL debut. He also said that Mayfield as responded well since the Eagles game.

"He's a young guy who had to go out there early, and he did enough to justify another opportunity," Smith said after Friday's practice. "…You have to weigh whether he's making progress and is he not hurting the team. I thought he had a good week.

-- Receiver Frank Darby was ruled out of Sunday's game against Tampa Bay on the team's official injury report. He was limited by a calf injury on Thursday, didn't practice Friday and won't be available to make his NFL debut. He was inactive last week.

-- The Falcons re-signed kicker Elliott Fry to the practice squad on Friday afternoon and released recent guard Danny Isidora from the practice squad in a corresponding move.


Falcons Final Whistle | A Postgame Podcast

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Welcome to Falcons Final Whistle – an Atlanta Falcons football postgame podcast during the season that shifts gears in the offseason to answer a pressing question about the team's future each week through free agency, the NFL Draft and the offseason program.

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