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Why does Antone Smith get so few touches?

Is there even a reason that Antone Smith is not getting meaningful snaps despite insane productivity?

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Antone Smith's offensive productivity has reached epic proportions when you break it down per carry. Smith is averaging 11 yards per carry on just 11 carries so far this season. His yards per carry average is good for 9th in the league, but of that top group, only Smith and Percy Harvin have more than 5 carries, so despite the small sample size, his average seems to accurately represent what Smith is capable of doing on the field.

For further confirmation of his abilities, one need look no further than last season, when Smith averaged 29 yards per carry on just five attempts. That yards per carry average was good for fourth in the NFL last season. Each of the three players ahead of Smith managed to break off just one big run as opposed to establishing such a significant average over five carries.

The Falcons rushing attack has improved considerably from last season, bringing some much-needed balance to the offense, and this is due in part to Smith's productivity. Smith has a really specific skill set, but he's still being used sparingly, despite head coach Mike Smith stating repeatedly that the team needed to get Smith more involved offensively. Why is Smith not getting more opportunities to benefit a team that desperately needs the offense to be as productive as possible?

One expectation the Falcons have established for their running backs is the need to be effective helping out with pass protection. Perhaps Antone Smith is terrible at pass protection, and that's the reason he's seen the field so rarely this season? Pro Football Focus doesn't think so, giving Smith a grade of +0.5 for pass protection thus far in 2014. PFF charges Smith with zero quarterback sacks, hits, or hurries this season. Smith was responsible for just one hurry last season.

Another trait the Falcons seem to prefer in their backs is the ability to catch balls out of the backfield. That wasn't necessarily a strength for Smith last season, with two receptions for a total of 10 yards. Smith was only targeted three times, however. This season Smith has 156 receiving yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.

Maybe ball security concerns keep Smith off the field? He has one career fumble. That can't be it. Or maybe it's because he's a special teams ace? Well, his offensive grades from Pro Football Focus have been better this season than his cumulative special teams grade of -3.0. Last season's special teams grade for Smith was -2.0. Pro Football Focus grades obviously don't tell the whole story about a player, but when you look at Smith's offensive productivity, it's still difficult to fathom that the team would make Smith's special teams contributions a priority to the detriment of using him offensively.

It's unlikely that Smith would sustain an 11 yards per carry average over significantly more touches, but when you look at his offensive productivity collectively, it's clear that he always has the potential to break loose for a big gain or a score. When Smith gets into space he's nearly impossible to catch. He has a gear that few players possess. Having shown what he's capable of in limited action, Smith has created a situation where defenses absolutely have to account for him if he's on the field, which may open things up for his teammates. He always has the potential to break off a big play, and for a team that generally cannot rely on the defense and needs all of the offensive production it can get, it just seems wasteful for Smith to see the field so rarely.

Mike Smith has said that the team needs to design more plays for Smith and get him more involved offensively, but it's not the first time this has been said, so it's reasonable to maintain a healthy level of skepticism. What do you think the team should do to get Smith more involved offensively?