The Dallas Cowboys have turned the page on the Denver Broncos. They’re on to the 4-4 Atlanta Falcons who – believe it or not – are a playoff team in the NFL. Well, at least today. Yes, you read that right. If the regular season ended today, the Falcons would be the NFC’s final Wild Card team.
At first, that might not sound like much of a surprise to some football fans. The Falcons are a .500 team, and it’s only Week 10 of the regular season. Yet, they rank 31st in the NFL in total DVOA, their defense is struggling to get any kind of pressure (#31 in pressure rate), and are inconsistent all across the board.
Even still, they have some players that create tough match-ups for any defense in the league. Among these, none has been more discussed than the 2021 fourth-overall pick out of Florida, TE Kyle Pitts.
A 6-6, 248-pound football player with a relatively skinny and athletic build that’s a freak athlete in the gridiron.
The Dallas Cowboys know just how important it is to figure out a strong game-plan to stop Pitts. This is a football team that’s struggled versus tight ends by allowing players like Hunter Henry big days. They rank 32nd in the league versus tight ends measured by DVOA.
So just how do you stop a player like Pitts? He’s a nightmare to match up on defense. He’s skinny yet has the weight and height from an average tight end. He’s insanely athletic and can make some impressive catches.
The Cowboys know that even though he’s listed as a tight end, the Falcons are not hesitant to line him up out wide or as a slot receiver. He plays a lot of snaps away from the offensive line.
Given Calvin Ridley’s absence from the Falcons, do the Cowboys gamble and play Trevon Diggs on Pitts? Or do they let Jayron Kearse try to handle him with some additional help in coverage?
This season, teams have put Xavien Howard, Stephon Gilmore, and Marshon Lattimore on him. Should the Cowboys consider putting Trevon Diggs on him? Despite giving up big plays, he’s been the best player in coverage for the Cowboys in 2021.
I don’t doubt Diggs’ abilities to get the job done if that’s what Dan Quinn wants to do on Sunday. But the truth is I’d be a bit concerned about “underrating” the threat other receivers would pose for the Cowboys’ secondary if #7 is asked to follow Pitts around.
While many are just thinking about the threat Kyle Pitts poses when being targeted, the Cowboys also have to be worried about how the Falcons are using him even when the pass is headed to another player.
So far, Atlanta has generated a ton of big plays by him drawing coverage toward him. It’s something that shows up consistently in film. And the Cowboys might be smart to keep lined up elsewhere.
An example of it is the play below. Three New Orleans Saints’ players are on Pitts while Olamide Zaccheaus (#17) is left alone with Marcus Williams (#43) downfield. The Falcons will do that with Pitts to open up opportunities for wide receivers and tight ends alike. Hayden Hurst has also been benefitted from this in recent games.
Kyle Pitts is not only a concern when the #Falcons target him, but when he’s out there drawing defenders his way.
This shows up consistently on big plays from Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/lmowW3m5gJ
— Mauricio Rodríguez (@MauNFL) November 11, 2021
Although far from consistent, the Falcons have enough players difficult to match up to make life a bit complicated for a Dallas Cowboys defense that’s struggled with big plays all season long. That’s a big reason why they pulled off the upset against the Saints in Week 9. In that game, the Falcons were able to have three pass-catchers average over 19 yards per catch.
For more thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys and how they match up against Kyle Pitts, make sure to check out A to Z Sports Dallas Primetime!
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports