The 2013 rushing attack for the Falcons was dismal. There's reason to believe that things will improve for Atlanta in 2014, if only in certain situations.
Football Outsiders has 2013 breakdowns of each team's rushing attack, but we don't need to rehash the relative ineffectiveness of every back in the team's stable. For our purposes, FO's closer look at how effective teams were running behind their lines will do just fine.
The picture that's painted here is an ugly one. The Falcons were in the bottom 25% of the league running out wide on both sides and up the middle behind the center and guards, though they were unusually effective running off-tackle. It's too bad that a whopping 59% of the team's runs were toward the middle of the line, because they sucked at running through the middle of the line. Many, many runs were stuffed behind the 2013 line.
The good news is that the Falcons have added two players who should offer real upgrades at right guard and right tackle. Jake Matthews should be able to spring Steven Jackson & Co. for more runs off the outside edge, while Jon Asamoah takes over for the Garrett Reynolds/Peter Konz blazing tire fire at right guard. Matthews isn't a known NFL quantity, but he was more than solid at Texas A&M. Asamoah isn't known as a particularly effective run blocking guard, and the Falcons clearly signed him for his pass protection, but he's at least solid. It also helps that the Falcons were close enough to rock bottom that improvement seems likely regardless.
Obviously, there are caveats. No one on this line is a guaranteed mauler in the run game, and you've already seen Sam Baker, Justin Blalock and Joe Hawley/Peter Konz do average-to-substandard work in years past. With a better right side of the line and hope for a stouter center with Hawley or an improved Konz, though, the Falcons may be able to turn one of their great weaknesses into less of a liability.
What do you think?