The Falcons began the year with zero expectations. They had the most money allocated to players not on the roster, and many national media outlets were projecting them to finish with the worst record in football. USA Today even picked them to go 2-15. I always figured the Falcons would find a way to win a few games because the talent disparity in the NFL is never usually as great as many imagine, but I wasn’t sure what their identity was going to be. Through 15 games now, it’s become overwhelmingly evident. Arthur Smith wants to pound the rock early and often, and he has the right man to lead his offense in Tyler Allgeier.
When Allgeier was selected by the Falcons in the fifth-round, I thought there was a chance Arthur Smith may have found a starter late in the draft, but I don’t think anyone expected him to ascend this rapidly. I watched a lot of Allgeier when he was at BYU and was thoroughly impressed by his ability to bounce off tackles, leading to chunk plays. In his final season for the Cougars, Allgeier rushed for over 1,600 yards with 23 touchdowns in just 13 games. But making college players look like they need to hit the weight room is one thing, doing that in the pros is an entirely different challenge.
Fortunately for the Falcons, Allgeier has had no problem making the transition. Over the past two weeks, he’s slowly become the feature back in Atlanta. Against the Saints in Week 15, Allgeier rushed for a career-high 139 yards on 18 carries, and he followed up against the Ravens with 117 scrimmage yards on 17 carries and four receptions.
On the season, Allgeier has 817 rushing yards — the second-most in franchise history for a rookie, and he has a real chance of breaking the franchise record of 1,023 yards, set by Williams Andrews in 1979. That’s even more noteworthy when considering Allgeier has only carried the ball 15+ times in four games this season and has often split time with two other running backs.
The surface level numbers are impressive for any rookie ball carrier, but I think the eye test is far more exciting. Allgeier may not be the biggest back, but he keeps a low center of gravity and packs a punch. Every time he touches the ball, he somehow finds a way to get an extra three or four yards after initial contact. The first guy that hits him rarely brings him down, and oftentimes he’s carrying three or four defenders on his back toward the line to gain.
Dating back to his days with Tennessee, Arthur Smith has proven to be one of the most creative minds when it comes to running the football. With the offensive line the Falcons had coming into the season, I never thought I would see Atlanta boast one of the league’s most impressive rushing attacks. The Falcons now have an identity, and they have their future at the running back position. Allgeier might not be Derrick Henry — nobody is — but he’s quickly ascending into the upper echelon of running backs in this league.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire