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Florida Gators in the NFL, Week 7: Kyle Pitts shows out on National Tight Ends Day

The unicorn went on a rampage last Sunday.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Miami Dolphins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Shawn Kopelakis drops off another dispatch from the full professional ranks...

Raise your hand if you had Kyle Pitts becoming an elite player in the National Football League, a generational talent who would redefine the tight end position?

Okay, so everybody in Gator Nation saw this coming. Got it.

The Falcons, of course, thought extremely highly of Pitts, too, making him the highest drafted tight end in NFL history back in April. But it still been jaw-dropping, watching him eclipse even the loftiest expectations over these past couple of games.

Pitts is on pace for 1,335 yards, which would obliterate the rookie record for tight ends and be fourth all-time for any player, just ahead of Randy Moss and Odell Beckham Jr. — and while Ja’Marr Chase is rightly generating Moss comparisons in Cincinnati despite still lagging behind Cooper Kupp (!?!?) in receiving yards per game, Pitts is first in the league in receiving yards per game among tight ends at a moment when Travis Kelce is in his prime.

Remember, too, that the Falcons, relatively speaking, barely used Pitts in their first three games: He commanded just 17 targets, turning them into only 11 catches, 139 yards, and no TDs. In the last three games, he’s become the focal point of the Atlanta passing game, turning his 27 targets into 20 catches, 332 yards, and a TD.

He’s the first rookie tight end with back-to-back 100-yard-games in over 50 years. He’s the youngest tight end to have over 150 yards receiving. And he almost single-handedly — pun intended! — beat the Miami Dolphins this past Sunday, turning in maybe the best performance by a tight end on a day that the NFL embraced as National Tight Ends Day.

When you watch the film, it’s hard not to marvel at what Pitts is doing. He lines up everywhere on the field. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he’s had 85 snaps inline (27%), 135 snaps in the slot (43%), and 96 snaps outside (30%). In that Dolphins game, he beat press, man, and zone coverage. He beat linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks. He’s a menace in space and he’s a bully when fighting through contact.

Combine his size, speed, and strength and you have a superstar.

But what about his hands? Maybe they’re a weakness?

Well, per PFF, Pitts’ last dropped pass was in Jacksonville. It was not against the Jaguars, but against Georgia — and it came all the way back in 2019.

No tight end prospect has ever been hyped like Pitts, in some hyperbole about hyperbole Inception stuff, and yet the guy might just be better than anyone could have imagined.

And, hey, if you don’t believe me, just listen to Ochocinco.

Player of the Week

This is now and will likely always be a Kyle Pitts fan page, and we’ll never apologize for it. PFF gave Pitts the highest grade of any player in the league this past week. It was also his second straight week with over a 90 grade (elite).

But Pitts’s 163 receiving yards is only second best among former Gators in 2021: Kadarius Toney had 189 two weeks ago. Plus, both Van Jefferson and Freddie Swain have gone over the century mark this year. Add in a couple of touchdown grabs for Demarcus Robinson and this is easily the best receiving group Florida’s had in the pros — perhaps ever.

Honorable mention this week goes to Jon Greenard. I tweeted about his two-sack performance of Kyler Murray. Greenard is only playing about half the snaps for the Texans but he’s now had at least one sack in every game he’s been healthy and has consecutive multiple sack performances.

Play of the Week

Xavien Howard is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Week in and week out, he defends WR1s, usually with impressive results. He has the most interceptions in the NFL since 2017. With the game on the line Sunday, the Dolphins figured Howard had the best chance of stopping the unstoppable.

They were wrong.

Here are all of the Week 7 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):

The Good

  • Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE: 7 rec, 163 yds, 42 snaps (67%)
  • Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE: 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QB hits, 1 pass defended, 38 snaps (54%)
  • Marcus Maye, NYJ, S: 12 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass defended, 76 snaps (100%), first game back from injury
  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR: 4 rec, 43 yds, 1 TD, 61 snaps (94%)
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, NO, S: 5 tackles, 1 QB hit, 1 pass defended, 51 snaps (91%)
  • Freddie Swain, SEA, WR: 4 rec, 39 yds, 1 rush, 8 yds, 2 punt returns, 19 yards, 43 snaps (77%)
  • Carlos Dunlap, SEA, DE: 5 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 QB hit, 29 snaps (39%)
  • Alex Anzalone, DET, LB: 7 tackles, 61 snaps (94%)
  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB: 5 tackles, 55 snaps (98%)
  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: 66 snaps (93%)
  • Max Garcia, ARI, C: 66 snaps (93%)
  • Demarcus Robinson, KC, WR: 1 rec, 7 yards, 57 snaps (79%)
  • Janoris Jenkins, TEN, CB: 3 tackles, 54 snaps (75%)
  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K: 2/2 FG, Long 52, 5/5 XP

The Limited

  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P: 2 punts, 46.5 Avg
  • Marcell Harris, SF, S: 1 tackle, 27 snaps (40%)
  • C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB: 3 tackles, 12 snaps (17%), left game with shoulder injury
  • Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR: 1 tackle, 1 target (0 rec), 4 offensive snaps (8%), 14 ST snaps (70%)
  • Jonathan Bullard, ATL, DL: 1 tackle, 19 snaps (26%)
  • Vernon Hargreaves III, HOU, CB: 1 tackle, 8 snaps (11%)
  • Fred Johnson, CIN, G/T: 7 snaps (11%)
  • T.J. Slaton, GB, DT: 7 snaps (10%), no stats
  • La’mical Perine, NYJ, RB: 1 offensive snap (2%), 4 ST snaps (15%), first game action of 2021
  • Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB: no snaps

The Inactive

  • Dante Fowler, Jr., ATL, OLB: Placed on Injured Reserve last week
  • Kadarius Toney, NYG, WR: DNP (Ankle)
  • Trent Brown, NE, RT: DNP (calf)
  • Jonotthan Harrison, NYG, OL: DNP (Achilles)
  • Keanu Neal, DAL, LB: Bye Week
  • Joe Haden, PIT, CB: Bye Week
  • Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT: Bye Week
  • Lerentee McCray, JAX, OLB: Bye Week
  • Taven Bryan, JAX, DE: Bye Week
  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Inactive
  • Feleipe Franks, ATL, QB: Inactive
  • Stone Forsythe, SEA, T: Inactive
  • Johnny Townsend, FA, P: Released by Titans last week