Atlanta Falcons: What can we expect from the running game in 2020?

Ito Smith will hope to be part of an improved Atlanta Falcons running game (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Ito Smith will hope to be part of an improved Atlanta Falcons running game (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
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Falcons running game
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter has struggled to establish a successful running game with the Falcons (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Falcons running game was not a priority in 2019.

It’s fair to say that Dirk Koetter has a mixed resume when it comes to the run game. Prior to joining the Falcons for the first time in 2012, his offenses were built on a strong rushing attack, with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew as the focal points.

In three of his five seasons as Jaguars OC, the team ended the season in the top four for rushing attempts; they never finished lower than 18th.

Whether due to the instruction of Mike Smith, or the upgrade from David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert to Matt Ryan, Koetter’s offenses in his first spell with the Falcons were a very different beast. Micheal Turner went from consecutive seasons of 1300+ rushing yards to just 800 in 2012, Koetter’s first season in Atlanta.

In his three years as play-caller, the Falcons never finished in the top 25 in team rushing attempts.

Koetter’s time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reaffirmed his commitment to the running game in the short-term, with the Bucs finishing both of his first two seasons in the top eight for rushing attempts. 2015 saw a resurgent Doug Martin as one of the league’s top running backs. His 1402 rushing yards marked the only time that one of Koetter’s RBs was able to top 1000 rushing yards since leaving Jacksonville after the 2011 season.

His return to Atlanta last season saw the team’s rushing offense struggle, although the previous years under Steve Sarkisian had also failed to bear fruit.

The Atlanta Falcons rushed often on first down but rarely saw success and abandoned their attempts once the team inevitably fell behind. Koetter will need to find more creative ways to get the run game going in 2020.