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What to Expect From Hayden Hurst Next Season?

What to Expect From Hayden Hurst Next Season?
Hayden Hurst in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFP

Atlanta Falcons veteran tight end Hayden Hurst was projected to have a breakout season last year, but it didn’t happen. 

This year, Hurst claims he is on a “mission” and has made a lot of changes to his daily workout and health.

“This year was big for me, adding the diet to my routine as well,” Hurst said via AtlantaFalcons.com. “I’m down to almost eight percent body fat right now. I’m definitely a man on a mission this year. I have a lot of reasons to play a little bit harder.”

Hurst didn’t get into too much detail about what those reasons might be, but he did note he has a lot to prove since the Falcons did not pick up his fifth-year contract, which means he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. 

The Falcons also selected tight end Kyle Pitts in the first round of the NFL draft this year, so Hurst has some competition at the spot.

“I thought (the selection of Pitts) was a good thing. He’s going to draw a lot of attention when he’s out on the field. So, I think it’s going to help everybody across the board.”

Atlanta traded with the Baltimore Ravens for Hurst last offseason. In his first season as a Falcon, Hurst posted a career-high 56 catches for 571 yards and six touchdowns and 88 targets

Hurst might have some new challenges to face in 2021, but he’s made it clear he won’t be letting anything keep him from excelling this season

Hayden Hurst makes a catch . Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

Falcons New Offense Will Give Hurst a Chance to Do More

The Falcons’ offense will look entirely different this year with Dan Quinn no longer with the team and new head coach Arthur Smith calling the shots now. 

And it’s good news for Hurst, who will be able to showcase more this year under Smiths’ two tight end formations. 

“What I bring to the table is pretty unique as far as my vertical speed and how I’m able to move at my size. The way I play in games, my tempo is a match [to the system]. I think it’s a great offense and I’m excited. I think that, in my fourth year, I’m going to get utilized vertically. That’s what I was able to do in college. Finally, an offensive coordinator can see that and utilize it this year.”

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Last year at Tennessee, Smith had four tight ends who played over 200 snaps and the most frequent formation he used was 12 personnel, which consists of one running back and two tight ends.

“That’s the beauty of this offense,” Hurst said. “We’re going to operate at multiple tight end sets. History has proven that with Coach Smith in Tennessee. I think we have a pretty good group of guys here in Atlanta and that he’s going to be able to utilize all of us in specific ways to create mismatches and make defenses uncomfortable.”

Along with Hurst and Pitts, Atlanta’s offense has rising star Calvin Ridley stepping into Julio Jones’s shoes and another promising young wide receiver in Russell Gage. 

Kyle Pitts #84 celebrates a touchdown. Sam Greenwood/Getty Images/AFP

Smith Plans to Create Conflict 

The Falcons are on tap to have both a solid passing and ground game this season with Smith joining the franchise after leading the best rushing attack for two straight seasons in Tennessee. 

Smith’s plan is to keep offenses off-balance by mixing it up through the air and on the ground, something the Falcons have not been able to do for quite some time.

With Smith now in charge, it should be a reviving season not only for Hurst, but for everyone across the offense board.