In his two seasons as the Titans offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith benefitted from handing the ball off to the best running back in football — Derrick Henry — early and often. That won’t be the case in Atlanta. The running-back room is currently as bare as any other in the league. Ito Smith and Qadree Ollison are the only currently rostered players at the position heading into 2021 — two guys that have received very few NFL game reps.
Because of that, a lot of the talk leading up to free agency and the draft is about where the Falcons will find Smith’s next Henry? Well, the Falcons new head coach knows that isn’t realistic.
Henry is Irreplaceable
“We’re not going to have Derrick Henry here,” Smith said, via Pro Football Talk. “So, it’s not like I think we’re going to have Derrick Henry.”
With Smith calling the shots, Henry led the league in rushing each of the last two seasons. Last year, he became just the eighth running back in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard threshold in a single season. The Falcons, as a team, didn’t even come close to that mark. The Falcons backfield amassed just over 1,500 yards on the ground in 2020. Their leading rusher — Todd Gurley — is unlikely to return.
Smith isn’t worried about lacking a Henry-type ball carrier in Atlanta. He’s well aware there’s only one person like him on the planet. Smith has a plan to establish the run with his new team.
The Plan in Atlanta
“The reality is that we’ll get multiple backs in here, and we’ll have the way we trust our schemes and the way we teach the details of it, and we’ll commit to it,” Smith said. “That should provide hope to people because of that mindset.”
It’s also important to remember that — just as Smith benefitted from having a talent like Henry; Henry benefitted from having an offensive mind like Smith. Before Smith was calling the shots in Tennessee, Henry had never even eclipsed 1,100 yards. Talent can only take an offense so far; scheme is far more important to overall success, and that’s what Smith will bring to Atlanta.
With such a bare running-back room, it’s imperative that the Falcons add some new faces. Whether they come from the draft or free agency it’s a must. However, with so many other — more important — holes on the roster, it would shock me if they opted to spend a healthy chunk of change or an early-round pick on the position.