Atlanta's running game was by and large mediocre this season, finishing 24th in the NFL in yards per game (93.6) and 17th in touchdowns (11). A porous offensive line certainly didn't help: Pro Football Focus gave the Falcons a -40.8 run block rating -- good for 28th in the league and considerably worse than the year before (-14.1).
Let's take a brief look at how Atlanta's RBs fared in 2014.
The veteran running back gave Atlanta about as much as we could have reasonably expected. Clearly on the decline after an illustrious career in St. Louis, Jackson racked up 707 yards on the ground, good for 3.7 per carry, along with six touchdowns.
He was, however, more productive than he was in 2013, playing in three more games and totaling 164 more rushing yards. The Falcons were wise not to use him as a workhorse; instead, he was given less than 13 carries per game, which kept him fresh and gave some of Atlanta's other RBs well-deserved action.
Jackson's time in Atlanta may be up. He's not getting any younger, and with a new coaching staff in place, it may be best to move on. Regardless, he was a solid leader during a tough stretch and made a lasting impact on his younger teammates.
Watching Antone Smith was one of the more entertaining parts of 2014. Electric, lightning-fast and tough to bring down, the FSU product was a home run threat whenever he touched the ball. Smith's Week 1 score against New Orleans was among his greatest highlights, and allowed the Falcons to compose an impressive, memorable win.
Smith finished 2014 with 144 rushing yards on 23 attempts -- good for a whopping 17.1 yards per carry. With touchdowns of 41, 54 and 74 yards, he developed a reputation for his game-changing abilities. This made it all the more sad when he broke his leg in mid-November and was lost for the remainder of the season.
It'd be great to see Smith back with the team in 2015. If he recovery goes well, I imagine the Falcons will make a concerted effort to retain him.
Rodgers saw his workload decrease significantly, as he earned just 58 carries after consecutive years of 90-plus rushes. What's more, he caught 23 fewer passes than he did in 2013.
It was a tough situation for Rodgers, but with so many legitimate options at Dirk Koetter's disposal, someone was going to draw the short straw. His lone touchdown came on opening day, which gave Atlanta a 31-24 lead with a little less than three minutes left in regulation.
Freeman's rookie campaign included some encouraging moments -- most notably his two touchdowns against Detroit and Pittsburgh. He ended up with 248 yards on 65 attempts.
If Freeman improves his pass blocking, and if he puts on some muscle, he should see his role increase next fall. The natural skill is there.
The lasting memory of DiMarco's season is going to be his dropped touchdown in Week 17. It's unfortunate, but due to the nature of his position, there weren't many opportunities for him to stick out in a positive way.
DiMarco was not an ideal option, but he wasn't a disaster, either. Only twice did he post a PFF rating below -1.0.