Advanced analytics love Falcons running back committee

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The Falcons have completely shifted philosophies under the new regime. Arthur Smith has brought his run-heavy offense to Atlanta, and the tendency to run the ball is amplified with a mobile quarterback. Last season, the Falcons offensive line was dreadful. Atlanta’s runners averaged 2.1 yards per carry before contact, fourth-to-last in the league. It’s been a complete turnaround with personnel changes coming at left guard, center, and quarterback.

Through Week 10, the Falcons rank sixth in the NFL in rushing yards before contact (3.2). That is a stark difference in just one year. Atlanta has three runners in the top 25 rushers in yards before contact, with Marcus Mariota coming in seventh (4.2), Cordarrelle Patterson in 13th (3.3), and Caleb Huntley coming in 25th (2.8).

The Falcons are a completely different offense with a new identity, and the advanced analytics love Atlanta’s running back committee of Patterson, Huntley, and Tyler Allgeier.

The X-axis represents the percentage of a ball carrier’s attempts that go over the expected yardage at the time of the handoff. And the Y-axis represents the yards over expected per carry average. The Falcons three running backs fall in the first quadrant of the graph, which is the best runners in the league by these metrics.

The Falcons have four players with over 300 rushing yards on the season and five with at least one touchdown on the ground. Allgeier leads the team with 443 yards, followed by Patterson at 402 yards, Mariota at 347 yards, and Huntley at 331 yards. Arthur Smith has implemented a diverse run scheme that stresses defenses’ ability to defend every player on the field, including the quarterback.

For all of his faults, Mariota’s legs have been a revolution in Atlanta. Matt Ryan‘s consistencies might be missed right now, but his lack of mobility surely isn’t. Mariota has given Arthur Smith the ability to scheme a totally new facet of the offense that fans hadn’t seen. The next step is developing the passing offense to be reliable enough to turn to when the run game fails; it just might not happen with Mariota behind the offensive line as it’s currently constructed.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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