Despite many people feeling that the Falcons should have added another running back during this year’s draft, they held off, feeling that the addition of Todd Gurley was enough. A reason for that was what they saw from Ito Smith in 2019 before he was lost for the year with an injury.
Dan Quinn says the #Falcons were really encouraged with the progress Ito Smith was making before his injury. The team has a lot of belief in their running backs.
— William McFadden (@willmcfadden) April 26, 2020
Smith impressed as a rookie, flashing the ability to make people miss and run in between the tackles despite his shorter stature. The Southern Miss product ran for 315 yards on 90 carries in 14 games that season as Tevin Coleman’s backup, and at times, looked like the better back. But with high hopes coming into year two, Smith was limited to just seven games and only received 22 carries. However, he averaged an impressive 4.8 yards per rush.
His injury, along with Devonta Freeman’s, opened the door for Brian Hill, who carried the ball 78 times from 323 yards in 2019 and added 10 receptions for 69 yards as well. His career 4.7 yards per carry gave the Falcons enough confidence to place a fifth-round tender on him, which he signed last week. With him in the fold again and the newly acquired Todd Gurley, the Falcons feel they are in excellent shape to replace Devonta Freeman, who hasn’t been able to stay healthy over the past two seasons.
A lot has been made about Todd Gurley’s knee issues — and for a good reason — they are not going away. But even with the Rams managing his workload, he still ran the ball 223 times, more than any Falcons running back has in years. If he can give the Falcons 200 carries this season, Ito Smith, Brian Hill, and second-year back Qadree Ollison will be more than enough to provide Atlanta with the best running back room they’ve had since 2016.