The Atlanta Falcons running game in 2020 was dreadful. The reasoning for their lack of productivity fell on the shoulders of Dirk Koetter and the blocking upfront.
Arthur Blank hired Arthur Smith because he knew Smith would prioritize a strong running game, something the team has not consistently had since Kyle Shanahan’s departure.
Arthur Smith will have to get creative with his style if he wants his team to truly succeed on the ground this season, the talent on the offensive line has not dramatically improved. It lies on the shoulders of Smith to use his creative plays to find the gaps in the opposing defense.
The Atlanta Falcons will be built solely upon the power running game.
Mike Davis, Wayne Gallman, Qadree Ollison, D’Onta Foreman, Caleb Huntley, what do all of these Atlanta Falcons running backs have in common? Their ability to go through defenders, rather than around.
Going back to the beginning of free agency, one of the first signings made by the new front office was Mike Davis. Davis was one of the best brute backs in the NFL last year. This signaled toward an emphasis on that type of running, as Davis was projected to be the lead running back.
After the conclusion of the draft, the Falcons prioritized signing former Louisville running back, Javian Hawkins. Many believed that he would cruise onto the roster proceeding the preseason, due to the lack of competition when it comes to his style of running the ball.
That was anything but the case, as Hawkins did not even make it to the final cuts. This is when you really understood that Smith was not messing around with his desire to run through defenses.
Hawkins was really the only player on the Falcons offense who possessed the elusive style in the backfield.
Now we are close to the start of the season and the only listed running back that is a change from the bruising style is Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson is a veteran who has been listed as a receiver for most of his career. Now he figures to get handed the ball out of the backfield, and occasionally be lined up out wide. He is the only change-of-pace player the Falcons have.
Whether that is a problem or not has yet to be seen.
Arthur Smith did come from a team with the best power back and probably the best back in the league, Derrick Henry.
There was little doubt that Smith loves himself a football player who runs right up the gut, but even in Tennessee, he had Dion Lewis.
Patterson is, however, a bit different than Lewis. Lewis is more of a technician out of the backfield, and also has the agility to get around people.
This is not to say Patterson does not have the ability to evade defenders, because he certainly does, he would not be one of the greatest returners in NFL history without it. He just has a different style than Dion Lewis.
We will see how this all turns out for the Falcons. They must understand who they are as a team and that figures to be centered around toughness.
It should be fun to see a new running style in Atlanta!