We made some assumptions about the Falcons RB position throughout the spring and summer that may prove to be less concrete than we, um, assumed. Once you go beyond Devonta Freeman being the locked-in starter and workhorse for this offense, might we have erred in our confidence?
One of the bedrock thoughts I’ve had is that Ito Smith is locked in as Devonta Freeman’s backup in a post-Tevin Coleman world. That’s based on a combination of factors that include Judge Ito’s obvious promise, the strengths of his game, and the run he received a year ago. In that world, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, and Kenjon Barner are all just competing for a third (and I guess possibly fourth) spot on the roster.
Yet on the very first day of training camp, there were some subtle suggestions that the team hasn’t exactly penciled in their top two yet.
On the running backs, how things shake out behind Devonta will depend on what each guy’s strengths are and how those best fit.— Jeañña (@jeannathomas) July 22, 2019
Dan Quinn says the running backs are “deeper than we’ve been at that position.” #Falcons— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) July 22, 2019
This is important to note now because it suggests a legitimate competition may be in the offing. Remember, the Falcons just signed Kenjon Barner and drafted Qadree Ollison this offseason with new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter coming to town, suggesting these are two players the new playcaller wants a better look at. Incumbents like Ito to a greater extent and Brian Hill to a lesser extent aren’t necessarily locked into roles because Steve Sarkisian is no longer here. That’s not to suggest that Ito won’t win the backup gig—I still think he’s the favorite for it—but perhaps it’s no the lock many of us thought.
We’ll see if Ollison in particular can push his way into a more prominent role, but for now let’s sit back and see what comes of the competition.