The Atlanta Falcons are good at one thing, passing. And since Matt Ryan took over the starting job, that’s all they really have been good at. However, new Atlanta Falcons coach, Arthur Smith plans to change that by adding a ground game.
Smith is coming off two seasons with the Tennessee Titans where he led one of the most powerful rushing attacks in NFL history and Derrick Henry became the eighth player in the league to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a single season. Henry’s 2,027 rushing yards rank fifth all-time and the Titans ended the year with the second-best rushing offense.
“We’re not going to have Derrick Henry here,” Smith said, via Pro Football Talk. “So, it’s not like I think we’re going to have Derrick Henry.”
As for the Falcons, they ranked 27th across the NFL last season. Atlanta’s backfield totaled just over 1,500 yards in rushing yards. Their rushing leader, Todd Gurley, is set to not return next season. Gurley led the Falcons ground game with 678 yards and nine touchdowns, however, by the end of the season, he was no longer the leader of the backfield. Atlanta’s No. 2 rushing option, Brian Hill, is also a free agent, which left Ito Smith as the next best option. He contributed 63 carries for 268 yards with one touchdown last season, .
Smith’s Backfield Plan
But coach Smith has a plan.
Step 1. Sign multiple running backs. Step 2. Teach the details of the scheme to said running back and Step 3. Stay committed.
The first addition to the Falcons’ backfield has been the recent signing of former Carolina Panthers running back, Mike Davis.
Davis was forced to play a huge role for Carolina last season after stepping in for the injured Christian McCaffery as the team’s No. 1 option. He had his best season yet, rushing for 642 yards topped with 373 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. This gives Falcons backers some hope for their NFL Picks.
Davis, 28, was originally drafted in the fourth round by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015. The 5-foot-9, 221-pound running back has played 65 games with 22 starts. He has had stints with the 49ers (2015-16), Seahawks (2017-18), Bears (2019), and Panthers (2019-20).
Davis’s Role in Atlanta’s New Backfield
With Gurley on his way out of Atlanta, Davis adds the much-needed veteran help to the Falcons’ new offense. Right now, Davis is the Falcons’ immediate starter. However, he is not the game-changer that the Falcons need to succeed on the ground.
Davis lacks dynamic, which means he’s not going to add massive gains as a primed backfield would. He is quick on short gains a hard to tackle at 5’9” and over 220 pounds, which should still be impactful for the Falcons’ depleted offense. And it is notable to add that before Smith took over as the Titans OC, Henry had never even eclipsed 1,100 rushing yards. Davis has yet to see that number, but this means, Smith could be the key to turning things around for him and Atlanta’s rushing attack.
In order to do that, Smith will need to start with fixing the offensive line and the Falcons’ run blocking.
We still saw Mike Davis take over a significant role last season, so we know he’s capable of taking the load if he needs to. He might not be the most athletic, but he has played in multiple schemes, so learning Smith’s will certainly be doable.
At the end of the day, Davis is an upgrade from Gurley, but the Falcons still need to address the running back position in the NFL Draft with one of their day 2 or day 3 picks. They currently have nine total, so that shouldn’t be a problem.