Falcons QB Marcus Mariota wants to give TE Kyle Pitts 'more opportunities': 'I've been a little too safe'

After a rookie season with historical production, Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts seemed to be a certainty for a stellar sophomore campaign.

That's hardly been the case, as Pitts' numbers have paled in comparison to expectations -- most notably from Falcons fans and fantasy football managers.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota believes he can improve Pitts' production going forward.

"Well, first and foremost, I can do a better job of giving Kyle more opportunities with the ball," Mariota told reporters this week ahead of the Falcons' Thursday Night Football matchup on Prime Video against the Carolina Panthers. "I think sometimes I've been a little too safe, a little too conservative where I'm putting the football, so giving him a chance to go get it. I think that'll help some of his target numbers."

As a rookie playing with QB Matt Ryan, Pitts joined Hall of Famer Mike Ditka as the only rookie tight ends to tally 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He finished his first campaign with 68 receptions on 110 targets for 1,026 yards and just one touchdown.

Pitts' second-season numbers have seen him double his TD anomaly, but beyond that, they've been sub-standard to what was expected.

The former No. 4 overall pick has caught just 23 balls on 46 targets for 285 yards. In comparison, he had 36 catches for 546 yards at this time last year.

Last week's 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers might well have been a glaring example of what's gone wrong. Pitts had two catches for 27 yards, but it came on seven targets. Clearly, he and Mariota just aren't connecting, perhaps most evident on Mariota missing on a deep ball to Pitts that seemed destined for six points.

The 2022 Falcons' identity is also a running team -- the fourth-ranked rushing squad in the league, as a matter of fact. Mariota is a running quarterback, Cordarrelle Patterson is back and Tyler Allgeier has been a pleasant surprise.

Pitts had arguably his best game of the season in a Week 8 win over the Panthers in which he had five catches for 80 yards and a TD. Granted, the Panthers have the 21st-ranked pass defense, but they also have the 28th-ranked run defense.

Will this be the week in which Mariota focuses on doing a better job getting the ball to Pitts? Thursday night will answer that question.

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