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Practice report: Kyle Pitts impresses Dolphins who covered him during joint practices

Isaiah Oliver shows well, Miami strikes back some in second day of practices

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts #8 scores a touchdown during joint practice with the Miami Dolphins on Thursday August 19, 2021. (Photo by Kara Durrette/Atlanta Falcons)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Kyle Pitts put a quick move on Dolphins safety Eric Rowe, faking an inside break before heading back out. The rookie tight end reached full speed in a flash, then cut inside after crossing the goal line, hit the brakes and spun back out again.

Matt Ryan's pass was already on its way, which Pitts caught for an easy touchdown.

It was one of several plays Pitts made over two days of joint practices with the Miami Dolphins, using a mix of speed, size, athleticism and precise route running somewhat unusual for players so young.

He made jaw-dropping effort down the left sideline in a one-on-one red-zone drill, again with Rowe in hot pursuit, and tipped it to himself. He couldn't get a second foot in bounds, but it's yet another example that he's a truly dynamic threat. He proved that against another team this week, eliminating a possible shred of doubt that he can make an immediate and profound impact in 2020.

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Rowe is adept covering tight ends, a role he enjoys with the Dolphins. He was glued to Pitts for two straight days in fun individual battles won by both players.

"Going in, I knew he was a high draft pick and a really good receiver," Rowe said on Wednesday. "After today, it showed what people have been saying. He has really good movement. He's still learning. But he's a good player."

Rowe also believes Pitts can be even better with experience.

"You can see the potential. The way he moves. I know he's still just a rookie. But you can see when someone has talent. … He's long. He can move. I know he's going to cause problems."

Oliver interception highlights strong outing

Isaiah Oliver seems set as the Falcons' primary slot cornerback, a position he has held throughout camp. He was active and productive in coverage on Thursday, including an interception of Jacoby Brissett.

He was frequently used on corner blitz, including one instance where he should've been given a sack during a hurry-up period (more on that later). It was hard to finding glaring mistakes in his game during these joint practices, and it looks like he's settling into his role working inside, which he did some at the end of last season.

90-second drill

The Falcons and Dolphins ended practice again Thursday essentially running a two-minute drill with situational stipulations. This round set 90 seconds on the clock, with a timeout for each team and the offense down four points. A field goal would've won it the day before, but a touchdown was required this time around.

No unit got one. The Falcons first-team offense got the close, with Matt Ryan using short passes and then a big fourth-down strike to Olamide Zaccheaus to move near the goal line. The Falcons drive stalled at the end, with a false start, an incompletion and a sack by Emmanuel Ogbah, who beat right tackle Kaleb McGary, on fourth down.

The Falcons first-team defense held strong and kept the Dolphins from pay dirt. Miami wouldn't have gotten that close had a Tua Tagovialoa been considered sacked by Oliver – it likely would've end up that way in a real game – but the Falcons carried on and bent but never broke toward the end zone.

Grady Jarrett was proud to his defensive squad wrapped the joint practices that way.

"It feels good to get a stop on that last drive," Jarrett said. "They had to get a touchdown to win. They had a couple conversions early, so it was important for guys to will it at the end was good. It was good for us because it pushed our conditioning. I can attest to that. After 10-12 plays your lungs start going, but the coaches wanted to see us fight it out. Guys stood up and executed well and we got a stop."

The Falcons' second unit offense didn't last long, with a drive ended with an AJ McCarron pass that was tipped and then intercepted. The second unit defense quickly stopped Miami with a four-and-out.

Dolphins strike back

The Falcons were particularly good in the passing game and in the trenches on Wednesday, but things evened out considerably during Thursday's session.

The Dolphins made a concerted effort to avoid a repeat of Calvin Ridley's dominant showing. Cornerbacks Byron Jones and Xavien Howard were aggressive and physical when covering him. While Ridley still made a few plays, including a nice touchdown grab in one-on-ones, sledding was far tougher on this day.

The Dolphins were able to move the ball well through the air, especially when using tight ends. Mike Gisecki was particularly hard on the Falcons, making several big catches while steadily creating separation against linebackers and safeties. Could this be a recurring problem? It's certainly something to keep an eye on as we progress through the summer.

Ogbah had an excellent day against the Falcons front, which wasn't as stable as it was the day before.

The Atlanta Falcons are in Miami participating in joint practices with the Dolphins leading up to the second preseason game on Saturday.

More practice news and notes

LG Josh Andrews was back with the first unit, as expected, after leaving practice with cramps the day before. He was the primary first-unit left guard, though Jalen Mayfield got some run there including the final hurry-up period. …DL Marlon Davidson, DL John Cominsky, CB Kendall Sheffield and DB Delrick Abrams Jr. all missed practice. LB Erroll Thompson left practice with a trainer but was able to return. … OT Willie Beavers worked on the left and right sides, as he has been in recent days. While he took some first-team reps at right tackle, McGary seems to have that starting spot in his grasp at this stage. … There were two minor, yet heated exchanges on Thursday after a clean practice the day before. One happened during a special teams period, the other with the first-team Falcons offense. Both arguments were quelled quickly, avoiding any physical altercation. … Rookie CB Avery Williams had a nice pass breakup and an interception early in practice. ... TE Hayden Hurst had another strong day in the passing game, proving a useful target in the red zone especially.

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