Coming from having one of the top ground games in the league at Tennessee to joining the Falcons, new head coach Arthur Smith knows he has work to do.
“We’re not going to have Derrick Henry here,” Smith said, via Pro Football Talk. “So, it’s not like I think we’re going to have Derrick Henry.”
During Smith’s two seasons at Tennesse, Smith led one of the most powerful rushing attacks in NFL history and 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 ranked the Titans second-best for rushing offense last season.
The Falcons? Well, their ground game ranked 27th across the league. The Falcons backfield total just over 1,500 yards in rushing yards and their rushing leader, Todd Gurley, likely won’t be back next season.
Gurley led the team with 678 yards and nine touchdowns, but by the end of the season, he was no longer the lead back. Both Gurley and the team’s No. 2 rushing option, Brian Hill, are set to be free agents on March 17th. Ito Smith remains on the, having contributed 63 carries for 268 yards with one touchdown last season.
Is Smith worried? Nope. He’s up for the challenge.
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Arthur Smith’s Backfield Plan for Atlanta
Step 1. Sign multiple running back. Step 2. Teach the details of the scheme. Step 3. Stay committed.
“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. “That should provide hope to people because of that mindset.”
Step 4. Have faith in the Falcons mindset?
What Smith is trying to say here that no matter the talent they have on their hands, the scheme is going to be far more important. The talent will just follow. It’s notable to point out that before Smith took over as offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Henry had never even eclipsed 1,100 yards.
Will Atlanta Draft a Running Back?
In NFL.com’s Charley Casserly’s latest mock draft, he has Atlanta trading down to the Panthers’ spot at pick No. 8. There, the Falcons select running back Najee Harris out of Alabama.
“The Falcons trade back and still get their top choice — a dynamic running back whom Arthur Smith can build his offense around,” Casserly explained. “I know we rarely see running backs go this early these days, but Todd Gurley is a pending free agent and Atlanta has to have a strong running game if it’s going to get back to competing for a playoff spot.”
While the Falcons taking a running back in the first round might be frowned upon, Harris would add some much-needed help to a very slim backfield.
In 2020, Harris rushed for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns on 251 attempts (5.8 yards per carry).
Nearly every mock draft has the Falcons taking a QB at No. 4, but if they already plan to have Matt Ryan start next season, then trading down and acquiring more picks might be a smart move.
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