When the Atlanta Falcons signed running back Mike Davis ahead of the 2021 NFL draft, many Falcons’ fans figured that would be their new starting running.
According to new running backs coach, Desmond Kitchings, that’s now the case. Instead, the running backs will have to prove themselves for the starting job.
“You look at my room, I have some guys who still probably should have a chip on their shoulders to prove themselves,” Kitchings said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Mike (Davis) got an opportunity last year, but he hasn’t really been a feature guy. Patterson is transitioning in his role. You have some guys like Qadree Ollison and Tony Brooks James and these rookie free agents, they all should be chomping at the bit to prove they are a caliber game to help this team go win games as a ball carrier, pass protector and pass receiver out of the backfield.”
Heading into the draft, the Falcons knew it was unclear who they might turn to in their backfield, but they didn’t see another running back worth draft to add to the competition.
“We didn’t draft a running back … so, if I’m in the room, personally, I’m seeing this opportunity like it’s an open-door policy, let’s go out here and compete” Kitchings said.
Falcons Backfield Competition Outlook
Heading into the offseason the Falcons currently have Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison, Tony Brooks-James, Caleb Huntley, and Javian Hawkins at the position
Last season, Davis stepped up for the injured Christian McCaffrey and played in 15 games with the Panthers, rushing for 642 yards on 165 carries and six touchdowns. Atlanta signed Patterson in free agency who played wide receiver for most of his career but will now transition to the Falcons’ running backs room. 2019 fifth-round pick, Ollison has played in 11 games over the last two seasons in Atlanta. And Brooks-James spent the last five games of the 2020 season on the Falcons’ practice squad.
New head coach Arthur Smith will face a tough task with the Falcons rushing attack which hasn’t seen a spark in three straight years. Right now, Davis looks the most promising on the depth chart, but he’ll have to prove himself to Kitchings first.
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Smith’s Backfield Plan
Smith will be calling the offensive plays next season and the Falcons should be in good hands as he’s coming off notable success as the Titans’ OC.
During Smith’s two seasons at Tennesse, Smith led one of the most powerful rushing attacks in NFL history. Lead back 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 currently rank fifth all-time and put the Titans at second-best for rushing offense last season.
Smith’s plan to turn around Atlanta’s rushing attack looks like this:
Step 1. Sign multiple running back.
Step 2. Teach the details of the scheme.
Step 3. Stay committed.
Step 4. Have faith
“The reality is that we’ll get multiple backs in here, and we’ll have the way we trust our schemes and the way we teach the details of it, and we’ll commit to it,” Smith said via Pro Football Talk. “That should provide hope to people because of that mindset.”
What Smith means is that no matter what kind of talent the Falcons have to work with, learning the scheme is more important. From there, the talent should follow.