Falcons’ Backup RBs Earn High Praise from Arthur Smith

Qadree Ollison

Getty Qadree Ollison #32 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates after scoring a touchdown.

Projected No. 1 running back Mike Davis didn’t attend all of the Atlanta Falcons minicamp this past week, leaving backup Qadree Ollison with some extra work.

Olllison’s performance left a swooning impression on head coach Arthur Smith, but it’s still too soon to know what his final role will look like for the season.

“Q has done a nice job, but again, at this point, all that we are basing it off of is what we’ve thrown at him,” Smith told reporters following the last day of mandatory minicamp. “He’s doing a really nice job with the mental part and the (pass) protections. I’m very happy with his progress.”

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Falcons’ 2021 Running Back Depth Outlook

Ollison was originally drafted out of Pittsburgh by the Falcons in the fifth round during the 2019 NFL Draft. He showcased a promising rookie season, having 22 carries and four rushing touchdowns. However, after struggling with pass protection in his second year with Atlanta, Ollison was buried on the running back depth chart, ending 2020 playing in only three games.

A solid performance by Ollison all summer long will be expected from him if he plans on seeing more action next season.

Right now, the Falcons’ running back depth chart looks like Mike Davis, Cordarelle Patterson, followed by Ollison. The Falcons also have Tony Brooks-James and rookie backs Javian Hawkins and Caleb Huntley competing for a spot on the depth chart.

Davis stepped up for the injured Christian McCaffrey last season with the Carolina Panthers, rushing for a career-high 642 yards and six touchdowns on 165 carries in 15 games (12 starts). While the Falcons refuse to name Davis at their No. 1 running back, he is one with the best NFL resume.

As for Patterson, he will be playing more than just running back depth, according to Smith.

“C.P., he’ll play multiple spots for us,” Smith said. “He did a nice job at the end of the year last year in Chicago running the football. His history of returning kicks (is well documented) and he’s got some receiver background. He’s another cool versatile piece that we have in our program.”

Smith Stresses Importance of Versatility

Similar to the NBA’s mentality, Smith is all about adding versatility, hence the signings of Kyle Pitts along with Patterson.

“We drafted some players who can play multiple positions, but we’re not going to asking (Lee) Smith to do the same things (Kyle) Pitts can do,” Smith told The Athletic in a recent interview. If I want to spread the court and shoot a bunch of threes, I better get Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. If I don’t have those three guys on the perimeter, I better adapt.”

Pitts is a receiving tight end who can also play wide receiver if it ever came down to that, though the Falcons don’t plan on using him at that position. Aside from running back, Patterson can play at WR and kick returner.

And not to mention Russell Gage, who spent most of 2020 playing in the slot, can now switch to wideout with Julio Jones no longer in the lineup.


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