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Florida Gators in the NFL: Kyle Pitts’s 2022 goes from indignity to injury

An underwhelming year may have turned into an utterly forgettable one for the unicorn.

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

It’s the hit all tight ends fear: Defensive backs going low at the knee. And it might have ended Kyle Pitts’ season on Sunday.

The Falcons placed Pitts on injured reserve with what some are reporting is a torn MCL. He’s out at least four weeks and if the MCL is indeed torn, he won’t return to the field until 2023.

It’s a tragic end to an all-around disappointing sophomore campaign for Pitts. His numbers are way down from his historic rookie season, as the Falcons morphed into a heavy run-first team — thanks in no small part to a quarterback who is laughably inaccurate, especially when targeting Pitts.

If Pitts is indeed done for the year, he can rehab knowing the Falcons will surely have a new guy under center next season. Pitts should come back with a vengeance — and it might help if Atlanta can find someone who gets the ball anywhere near him.

The Streak is Over

C.J. Gardner-Johnson did not snag an interception this past week. That’s noteworthy because he pulled in at least one — and six total — in five straight games. Despite the rare goose egg, Ceedy Duce had a career-high 11 tackles.

And, as one Eagles reporter noted, he still leads the rival Giants’ $72 million man in catches this season.

The Football Gods Smote Down RBU

My suggestion that UF was entering a golden era of running backs was apparently a curse. Dameon Pierce had his worst day as a pro. Malik Davis slipped back into his third-string role and averaged less than two yards per carry in garbage time — a per-carry average that still doubled up Pierce’s. And current Gators Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne combined for 41 yards on 15 carries against Vanderbilt.

I am deeply sorry for offending the football gods and will run gassers as penance.

Return of the Mac

Evan McPherson’s incredible rookie season, capped by perhaps the greatest postseason by a kicker in NFL history, made him seem superhuman. But all kickers — except Justin Tucker — go through slumps.

McPherson had missed his last two field goals and an extra point in his previous two games. While McPherson wasn’t doubting himself, many fans were starting to wonder if he was as good as he seemed a year ago. On Sunday, he quieted the critics.

McPherson drilled all seven kicks — four XPs and three FGs, including that 54-yarder. He did it in Pittsburgh, one of the toughest places to kick in the league, and through windy conditions.

Money Mac is back.

XFL Preliminary Rosters

The XFL returns this spring and several former Gators are looking to restart their professional careers in the league. Last week’s draft saw the following players selected:

WR Josh Hammond - DC Defenders

S Matt Elam (!!!) - Orlando Guardians

TE Deandre Goolsby - San Antonio Brahmas

RB Matt Jones - Vegas Vipers

Other Week 11 Notables

C.J. Henderson had a career-high 11 tackles on Sunday. Unfortunately, when a cornerback makes that many tackles, it’s because he’s giving up a ton of catches - many of them to the Player of the Week below. Henderson has to trust his skills more and close the space between himself and the receivers.

Jabari Zuniga made his 2022 debut after being called up by the Saints from their practice squad. He had two tackles.

Trent Brown was apparently benched by the Patriots to start Sunday’s game against the Jets.

It marked the first time when healthy that Brown didn’t start since his rookie season in 2015. He’s been up and down this year - as have most of his Patriots offensive teammates - but it still was a surprise to not see him with the first unit.

Then again, Brown entered the game as an injury replacement — and subsequently gave up two sacks against a dynamic Jets’ defensive front. It’s been a weird year in New England.

Taven Bryan had another sack, upping his season total to 2.5. That’s a career-high for the former first-round pick. He’s never going to fulfill those first-round expectations, but he’s having his best season in his first year in Cleveland.

Player of the Week

Just like we all expected, Demarcus Robinson is the best Gators pass-catcher in the National Football League this season. D-Rob pulled in all nine of his targets on Sunday, setting a single-game career-high for catches. His 128 receiving yards were his second-highest total as a professional.

Over the past few weeks, Robinson has become a go-to target for Lamar Jackson. And maybe that’s not a huge surprise: After signing with Baltimore late in training camp, he quickly made an impression on both Jackson and coach John Harbaugh.

Robinson is having a breakout stretch because of his improved route running. He’s been excellent at beating defensive backs one-on-one with subtle moves.

His hands have always been good - only four drops in his entire career - but his footwork has also taken a huge leap this season. On Sunday, he did work along the sideline with a couple of stellar toe taps.

That catch was one of many against fellow Gator C.J. Henderson. Henderson had pretty good coverage on that play but Robinson was just better. And he clearly enjoyed getting the better of another Florida Gator.

D-Rob earned the fourth-highest Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of the week. He’s trending up and is going to be starting for many fantasy football teams going forward.

Play of the Week

Dante Fowler has to love playing on the Cowboys explosive defense. After never really lining up inside in his career, Fowler is going one-on-one with guards and centers and eating.

Fowler’s speed is no match for most interior linemen. He’s up to five sacks on the season and has a chance to get to double digits for only the second time in his career.

Here are all of the Week 11 stats (ranked and tiered in order of performance):

The Good

  • Demarcus Robinson, BAL, WR

Week 11: 9 rec (9 targets), 128 yards, 54 snaps (78%)

  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, PHI, S

Week 11: 11 tackles, 1 TFL, 65 snaps (100%)

  • Dante Fowler, Jr., DAL, OLB

Week 11: 1 sack, 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 22 snaps (39%)

  • Taven Bryan, CLE, DT

Week 11: 1 sack, 1 tackle, 1 TFL, 1 QB hit, 43 snaps (66%), 11 ST snaps (37%)

  • Evan McPherson, CIN, K

Week 11: 3/3 FG, Long 54, 4/4 XP

  • Kyle Pitts, ATL, TE

Week 11: 3 rec (5 targets), 43 yards, 24 snaps (44%), left with knee injury

  • Van Jefferson, LAR, WR

Week 11: 3 rec (5 targets), 41 yards, 47 snaps (73%)

  • Alex Anzalone, DET, LB

Week 11: 5 tackles, 2 QB hits, 72 snaps (95%)

  • Jonathan Bullard, MIN, DT

Week 11: 4 tackles, 1 TFL, 37 snaps (51%)

  • Brandon Powell, LAR, WR

Week 11: 2 rec, 16 yards, 1 rush, -1 yards, 1 KR, 34.0 avg, 2 PR, 4.5 avg, 20 snaps (31%), 16 ST snaps (52%)

  • Marco Wilson, ARI, CB

Week 11: 3 tackles, 2 PD, 41 snaps (71%)

  • Marcus Maye, NO, S

Week 11: 3 tackles, 64 snaps (100%)

  • C.J. Henderson, CAR, CB

Week 11: 10 tackles, 1 TFL, 69 snaps (100%), 10 ST snaps (43%)

  • Dameon Pierce, HOU, RB

Week 11: 10 rush, 8 yards, 2 rec, 9 yards, 43 snaps (77%)

  • Eddy Pineiro, CAR, K

Week 11: 1/1 FG, Long 32

  • Jon Bostic, WAS, LB

Week 11: 3 tackles, 42 snaps (75%)

  • Trent Brown, NE, RT

Week 11: 43 snaps (68%)

  • Tommy Townsend, KC, P

Week 11: 2 punts, 46.0 avg

The Limited

  • Carlos Dunlap, KC, DE

Week 11: 1 tackle, 1 PD, 23 snaps (35%)

  • Malik Davis, DAL, RB

Week 11: 7 rush, 13 yards, 2 rec, 22 yards, 13 snaps (18%), 17 ST snaps (61%)

  • Jabari Zuniga, NO, DE

Week 11: 2 tackles, 25 snaps (39%)

  • T.J. Slaton, GB, DT

Week 11: 2 tackles, 22 snaps (33%), 6 ST snaps (27%)

  • Zach Carter, CIN, DT

Week 11: 1 tackle, 27 snaps (37%), 6 ST snaps (17%)

  • Kadarius Toney, KC, WR

Week 11: 1 target, 0 catches, 1 punt return, 5.0 avg, 14 snaps (22%), left with hamstring injury

  • Marcell Harris, NYJ, LB/S

Week 11: 5 snaps (8%), 20 ST snaps (67%)

The Inactive

  • Keanu Neal, TB, S: Bye Week
  • Jawaan Taylor, JAX, RT: Bye Week
  • Teez Tabor, SEA, S: Bye Week
  • Stone Forsythe, SEA, T: Bye Week
  • Kyle Trask, TB, QB: Bye Week
  • Kaiir Elam, BUF, CB: Inactive (Ankle)
  • D.J. Humphries, ARI, LT: Inactive (Back)
  • Max Garcia, ARI, G: Inactive (Shoulder)
  • Feleipe Franks, ATL, TE: Inactive (Calf)
  • Jonathan Greenard, HOU, DE: Injured Reserve

The Practice Squad

  • Antonio Callaway, DAL, WR
  • Tyrie Cleveland, DEN, WR
  • Jarrad Davis, DET, LB
  • Jean Delance, ARI, OL
  • Fred Johnson, PHI, OL
  • Freddie Swain, MIA, WR
  • La’mical Perine, MIA, RB
  • Jeff Driskel, HOU, QB
  • David Sharpe, BAL, T
  • Jeremiah Moon, BAL, LB
  • Duke Dawson, PIT, DB
  • Quincy Wilson, PIT, DB
  • Jonotthan Harrison, ATL, OL