Select fans have been critical of Arthur Smith's game plan from last year due to it being so reliant on the ground game. No team ran the ball at a higher rate than the Atlanta Falcons last year and it has brought the question of if this "outdated" gameplan can get it done in the pass-heavy era that we are in.
However, his reliance on the run game wasn't necessarily by choice. He was forced to run the ball because of the issues the Falcons had passing the ball. And this happened following a season in which the passing game was relied on due to an awful running game.
This year, things should fuse together better which will bring out Arthur Smith's full scheme, which we have yet to see.
The Atlanta Falcons personnel has limited Arthur Smith's scheme
The general consensus is that the Atlanta Falcons have overachieved since Arthur Smith took over as head coach. The rosters over the past two seasons have had a serious lack of talent and cohesion, which is the exact reason we can infer that we haven't seen Smith's complete scheme quite yet.
Going back to 2021, the Falcons, once again, had to rely on the arm of Matt Ryan to score points. They ranked 30th in yards per carry and 31st in total rushing yards while their passing offense ranked in the middle of the pack.
This past season, the passing offense dropped off a cliff as they were definitely one of the three worst passing attacks in the NFL. Meanwhile, their running game did a complete 180 as they jumped 26 spots in yards per carry (4th) and 28 spots in total rushing yards (3rd).
Arthur was not going into the 2022 season hoping that his rushing offense and passing offense would be in completely different realms. He had to adapt as the season went on because he didn't have the talent to mesh the two units together.
He didn't pass the ball so much and run the ball so little in 2021, and vice versa in 2022, by choice, he did it because he had to. This upcoming season he should have the ability to lead a more balanced offense. Ridder has more weapons and should be better than Marcus Mariota while the running game should be just as dominant with the return of every key piece.
The draft further proves my point, they did not draft Kyle Pitts and Drake London with the vision to run the ball as much as they did last year. They drafted those guys to throw them the ball but the passing game last year just did not perform like they thought it would. The Bijan Robinson pick provides more proof. While he might be a running back, they didn't draft him to be just a running back, they drafted him to be a threat running the ball and catching the ball.
The moral of the story is that Arthur Smith is not looking to lead an offense that runs the ball like they are the 1977 Oakland Raiders, instead, he is looking to have a balanced attack which hasn't been possible during his first two years.