The Atlanta Falcons run game should be much improved in 2020.
To say the Atlanta Falcons run game has been terrible the last several years would be an understatement. The birds were 30th in the league in 2019 in rushing, 27th in rushing in 2018, 13th in 2017, and fifth in the rushing the year they made it to the Super Bowl.
Sure, the NFL has turned into a “passing league” and running backs carry very little value when compared to their offensive colleagues, but the run game still matters and the good teams can do it well.
In 2019, only the Jets and Dolphins ran for fewer yards than the Atlanta Falcons.
Fast forward to 2020 and the offensive line should be better as will the talent at running back; though the talent at running back matters very little if the guys up front cannot block. That was a big frustration watching the Falcons last year when the holes were open, Devonta Freeman was not hitting them, he was dancing around them.
Free is now gone and former UGA star Toddy Gurley is in the black and red for the 2020 season. He seems to be the healthiest he has been in quite some time and has something to prove to the entire league as he hopes to use 2020 in Atlanta to earn another big contract.
The good news for both Gurley as well as the Atlanta Falcons is that the birds have some quality depth at the running back position, which means someone is more than likely going to end up cut when camp is said and done.
RB1 – Todd Gurley
You don’t sign Todd Gurley for him not be the guy. While he did have to wait to take his physical because of COVID-19, the Atlanta Falcons were never worried. Sure the fans were, but the Falcons were not.
Matt Ryan has had glowing things to say about his new backfield teammate and the two should be quite the pair in 2020, each helping the other get better.
RB2 – Ito Smith
The judge will be the backup in 2020. Only appearing in seven games in 2019 due to an unfortunate injury, he should bounce back to being the guy he showed flashes of last season when he averaged nearly five yards a carry.
While he was unable to truly demonstrate his improved abilities in 2019, he will do so in 2020 and take some pressure off of Todd Gurley and allow both to be more effective.
RB3 – Qadree Ollison
An absolutely brutal devastating runner, this is what we said about him after the Atlanta Falcons drafted in 2019. At 6-2 and 230 pounds, he brings a different dimension to the Falcons than Todd Gurley and Ito Smith as he is the thunder to their lightning.
He is also a much better receiver out of the backfield than people realize. While he more than likely will not be that involved with the offense, we will see more of him in 2020 than we did in 2019. He is a great goal line as well as third and short bully running back and a weapon that the Falcons will use more of in 2020.
RB4 – Brian Hill
Brian Hill re-signed with the Atlanta Falcons on a one year $2.3 million free-agent deal this offseason, though I believe he will be the odd man out when camp is over and the team has to get down to its active roster limits.
Hill was much improved in 2019 and clearly worked on his pass protection skills and ability to catch out of the backfield. However, Gurley and Ito are better running backs altogether and Ollison brings a different dimension to the group.
Unfortunately for Hill, the Falcons aren’t going to keep more than three running backs in 2020, which will make him the odd man out.