Looking at Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts' Week 2 route charts
One of the bigger questions surrounding Arthur Smith when he became head coach of the Falcons was how different Atlanta’s offense would be. Additionally, the loss of Julio Jones added to the mystery. In place of Jones, fourth-year receiver Calvin Ridley moved up to the No. 1 spot and rookie Kyle Pitts has been frequently targeted through the first two games of the year.
Let’s take a look at the Week 2 route charts for both Ridley and Pitts, using NFL Next Gen Stats.
WR | Calvin Ridley
While he hasn’t shown it in full just yet this season, Ridley is a game-changing receiver and a viable threat on offense. He just needs the ball in his hands a little space to make moves. That wasn’t the case in Week 2 as Ridley has become too concentrated in one area of the field. It doesn’t take but two seconds to realize the disparity of distribution in Ridley’s route concepts.
Of the 10 targets that came Ridley’s way, all but two were from positioned on the right side. Ridley was only able to gain two yards after the catch twice. One of those receptions he turned a five-yard shallow drag into 21-yard pickup by adding 16 yards after the catch.
We like to knock down Dirk Koetter for his poor offensive scheme and game plans, but a direct comparison between Ridley’s first matchup against Tampa a year ago to his first matchup this season shows the difference is night and day. Koetter’s system offered Ridley an array of options and didn’t have him concentrated in one general area.
Have a look at the route concepts for Ridley in Week 15 of 2020.
The play design, much further downfield, allows for Ridley to create yards after the catch. You can see multiple occasions where Ridley was able to gain extra yards instead of being crowded close to the line of scrimmage.
With Julio Jones out for the season by this point, Ridley had long been the number one option for the Falcons’ offense. However, the route concepts under Koetter were much more favorable than for someone like Ridley.
TE | Kyle Pitts
Kyle Pitts ended the day as the Falcons’ leading receiver. While he had two less catches than Calvin Ridley, his 18-yard catch and run after a seven-yard completion helped, as well as his 24-yard gain on a 16-yard route. The Falcons have a true threat at tight end and when given the ball, Pitts has shown he can gain extra yards after the catch.
However, where I would like to see this expanded is the use of exterior routes. Pitts has the ability to create separation as a receiver, so the addition of more outward-breaking routes would present a better chance for yards after the catch. Additionally, I would like to see Pitts used in a more vertical sense and not so much on shallow routes. Pitts’ route tree is much more diverse than a traditional tight end, so more vertical or deep-breaking routes could elevate his playmaking abilities.
Considering the Falcons used their fourth overall selection on a tight end many believe is destined for the Hall of Fame, we need to see him used more like Raiders TE Darren Waller. In fact, Waller is who many compared to Pitts entering the draft. Take a look at how the Raiders used Darren Waller in Week 1 against Baltimore.
80 percent of Pitt’s Week 2 targets were on inward-breaking routes right into the heart of the defense. As Darren Waller’s route chart shows, his vertical routes have a much deeper stem to them on a consistent basis, unlike Pitts. However, this all could be a result of a game plan built around needing to get the ball out quickly, which Matt Ryan did on Sunday.