Falcons 2020 Year End Review: Running Backs

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 25: Todd Gurley II #21 of the Atlanta Falcons carries the ball after a reception against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 25, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

2020, from start to finish, wasn’t the year any of us wanted. In purely NFL terms, the Atlanta Falcons had as poor a year as they’ve had in recent history. The players fell flat on their face immediately after leaving the starting gate, the long time General Manager and Head Coach duo were unceremoniously moved on mid-season, and the team ended the season with their highest draft pick since 2008. It was a mess.

With the season over, it’s time to dissect that mess. As we face an uncertain new future, let’s take one last look back at the season, so see if there’s anything positive we can take into the new regime. So, join me as we sift through the awful to, hopefully, find little nuggets of good.

Todd Gurley – D-
Brian Hill – D
Ito Smith – D
Quadree Ollison – N/A

The running back position left plenty to be desired in 2020. The signing of Todd Gurley was exciting at first, but it quickly became apparent this version of Todd Gurley is a far cry from the player that lit up defenses in the early years of Sean McVay’s tenure. Gurley ended the season with his lowest totals in rushing attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns, as well as receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. It’s not unfair to say that the gamble with Gurley failed.

It’s worth mentioning that Dirk Koetter’s offenses aren’t exactly pro-RB, and Gurley was always up against it in that regard. Aside from his overall statistics, the lack of involvement in the passing game is a clar failure to recognise his talents. Gurley saw only 19 receptions in 2020, a travesty when you consider he racked up over 780 receiving yards only 3 seasons prior.

Nevertheless, Gurley’s usage lessened as the season progressed. The former Bulldog carried the ball more than 20 times in only 3 games, and managed a single game of over 100 rushing yards. It became clear that Gurley just wasn’t the player that he once was, nor was the team willing to adapt their playcalling to maximise his production. He ends the season with his reputation severely diminished. it would be a surprise to see him assume lead back duties somewhere in 2021.

Surprisingly, however, was the faith placed in Brian Hill. Hill rounded out 2019 positively, and entered 2020 as the team’s RB2. Hill managed 465 rushing yards from 100 attempts, and 199 receiving yards from 25 receptions. Not exactly electric, though not terrible. Hill’s lack of end product (1 touchdown) won’t help his case moving into free agency, but he’ll certainly be in the mix for sides looking to flesh out their depth.

Most disappointingly, Ito Smith wasn’t allowed the opportunity to kick on after 2019 ended early. Smith was left on the sidelines for most of the season’s first half. He was less limited in his usage from the Raiders on, and managed a total of 268 yards from 63 attempts, with a touchdown. Most promisingly is his 4.3 yard average per carry. Let’s hope he’s given the opportunity to flourish in his contract year.

Quadree Ollison carried the ball once for a total of 3 yards. It’s baffling how this team has used him.

Featured Image Credit: Kevin C. Cox – Getty Images

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