Often times in today's game, the career of an NFL tight end is judged by their production in the pass game given the increase in points being scored per game. For new tight end Lee Smith, that shouldn't be the case. Smith is a blocking tight end who knows and owns his role.
In desperate need of fixing the run game and securing better protection for Matt Ryan, the Falcons needed a guy like Smith to plug into the offense. All Smith wants to do is block and that's all the Falcons need him to do. A win-win for both sides that's why Atlanta traded a seventh-round pick to Buffalo in exchange for Smith.
"I like having my hand in the dirt and partying with the offensive linemen," Smith said. "I'm the run game guy, I'm in there to make sure the other teams don't hit the running back or Matt Ryan."
Smith, 33, spent the last two seasons playing for the Bills – his second stint with the club. Before that, Smith had stops at the Patriots (2011) and Raiders (2015-18) before returning to Buffalo.
He knows he's at the end of his career much like he knows his role on the field. That's why the idea of joining the Falcons, a team led by a former NFL MVP at quarterback and playing for one the brightest offensive minds in Smith was an ideal situation.
From former teammate Patrick DiMarco who played for the Falcons during the Super Bowl LI run to his first meeting with Ryan, Smith has heard nothing but positive things regarding the Falcons' franchise.
"The two Arthur's are the biggest reasons, along with the location and having a veteran quarterback, in the South it was a home run for my family and I and we're fired up," Smith said.
Smith could be exactly what the Falcons need at this time. With a new scheme to be implemented that will be focused on improving the rushing offense, having another veteran presence who wants to bring a sense of toughness to the club is a positive.
The Falcons finished with the No. 27th ranked rushing offense in 2020, averaging 95.8 yards per game. Ryan was sacked 41 times last season. One of the main reasons Arthur Smith was such an attractive candidate on the head coaching circuit was his work with Derrick Henry and the Titans' ground game. During his time as offensive coordinator for the Titans, Tennessee ranked No. 3 in 2019 and No. 2 in 2020 in the run game.
Smith doesn't care if he catches one pass for Ryan this year. If he keeps his quarterback clean and his team is running the ball well and winning, that's all he cares about.
"I'm super excited to help Matt (Ryan) and Arthur (Smith) get this thing back to the way they want it," Smith said. "Back to the point where the Atlanta community can't wait for Sundays and home games."