Desmond Kitchings — Falcons running backs coach — told Tori McElhaney of The Athletic that the first thing he noticed about his position group is the amount of competition there will be, that “the door is wide open” for anyone to take over and win the starting job.
Terry Fontenot handed out the largest contract — 2 years, $5.5 million — of the offseason to Mike Davis, who is expected to lead the stable of running backs this offseason. Kitchings described Davis as a natural pass catcher, but the most important thing to the Falcons’ new running backs coach is… pass blocking.
“At least there is one layer of communication that doesn’t have to happen because he [Dwayne Ledford] and I have worked together before,” Kitchings said to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s not only in the run game, but that’s with protecting the quarterback. Which is a big (part) of playing running back.”
Davis is a barreling runner who fits the type of football Arthur Smith, Desmond Kitchens, and Dwayne Ledford want to play — tough, physical, and nasty. It will certainly be his job to lose, and given how he held up in Carolina’s pass protection, he will likely start getting first-team reps.
Kitchings also told McElhaney that he doesn’t see Cordarrelle Patterson as a gadget player, noting the work he’s put in to play more like a traditional running back. Patterson is much different than Davis as the former is more of a slashing style runner with more explosive, breakaway speed. If he’s considered to be a running back, he’ll need to be able to stay in and help protect Matt Ryan — something he hasn’t shown he’s capable of just yet. That isn’t to say he can’t, but rather saying he’ll get his chance in camp to prove it because he’s clearly in Atlanta to play running back.
“When you study his film, he runs like a running back,” Kitchings said to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think some of that is attributed to his style as being a kick returner and the success he’s had there as a vertical, downhill guy that plays physical. I’m real excited about him. He’s a big back with some good speed…”
The Falcons also have third-year bruiser Qadree Ollison, who has the opportunity to capitalize on a new scheme that features a similar style of running that he offers. The team signed undrafted free agent Javian Hawkins to one of the larger UDFA deals this year as well. Kitchings noted the speed of the position room before they signed him, which is apparent in his home run ability. Hawkins’ skill set as a runner makes him an intriguing player for Smith’s offense, and I could certainly see him edging out a roster spot.
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