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The Falcons Running Back Depth Chart Will Be Unsettled Until September

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Let's all learn from last year and not put too much stock into what the coaches are saying about running backs.

Kevin C. Cox

A year ago, the coaching staff was excited about Steven Jackson and talking up Jacquizz Rodgers. When Antone Smith exploded onto the scene, the coaching staff talked about getting him more carries. All of this turned out to be, at best, misguided.

Jackson wound up hurt, piling up a mere 157 carries for 543 yards, or 3.5 yards per carry. Jacquizz Rodgers only got 96 carries for 332 yards, also 3.5 yards per carry. Antone Smith only received five carries for 145 yards, or 29 yards a pop. Some of this was due to injury, some of it to horrible line play, but all the lip service the Falcons paid to Rodgers being a three-down back and Smith getting more involved in the offense turned out to be exactly that: Lip service.

While I'd always advise you to weigh what coaches are saying carefully, there are sometimes clues to be gleaned early on about a player's role. You just can't do that with running back after last season, and that's why you should be wary of the coaching staff talking up Devonta Freeman. It may well be that they believe he can be a three-down back in the NFL—I believe that, myself—but we're going to need to see that in action.

That's doubly true for everyone else in the rotation. S-Jax is probably the "feature" back for one more season, Rodgers will have a role on third downs and Antone Smith is ticketed for special teams again, if I had to guess, but with a better line in front of these backs, the Falcons might feel a bit better about mixing things up. Don't count on a true workhorse in 2014.

How do you think the depth chart and carries shake out in 2014?