The Atlanta Falcons running game in 2020 was putrid. Todd Gurley II, was brought in to prove he could become the superstar running back he once was for the Rams, could not return to form. Ito Smith and Brian Hill were the 'bright spots' for Atlanta only because they averaged 4 yards per carry.
Matt Ryan paid for not having a running game in 2020 as well. Ryan was sacked 41 times, only seven fewer than in 2019 when he led the lead in being crumbled by pass-rushers. The offense had trouble with the 1 yard that plagued them so much in 2018 and 2019 as so many times Gurley was tackled behind the line of scrimmage because he didn't have the speed to hit the hole anymore.
"There's no question [a good run game] changes the dynamic defensively because [as a defensive player] I can't pin my ears back and go after the quarterback every time Matt Ryan takes the snap," Atlanta Falcons Radio Network color analyst Dave Archer told Sam and Greg. "I can't think that he's dropping and throwing to Calvin Ridley or Kyle Pitts. I've got to think about 'OK, they're coming off the ball, I've got to play my technique.' It slows pass-rush down. It makes you read and react a little bit more defensively as opposed to just using your athletic ability."
That has to change for Arthur Smith, who loves to run the ball.
Hopefully, Mike Davis, who filled in for Christian McCaffrey in Carolina in 2020, can live up to his potential as a 1,000-yards rushing and 300-yards receiving back. The Falcons are counting on Davis to have a Michael Turner-like breakout season.
"We've got some good backs here," Archer said. "Are they name-brand guys? No, but they're looking for that opportunity. Go back and look at the games that Mike Davis played against Atlanta a year ago. [He's] very physical, he got after you. I think you're going to see that from him. Get ready for Qadree Ollison. He has not had an opportunity to show what he can do. He's a guy that I did about seven or eight of his college games at Pitt. This is a guy that has outstanding vision, he runs well between the tackles, he has enough burst to get to the edge. This is a guy who can get small or can run through you when he needs to.
"I think there's enough in the running back room that you're going to get some good play out of those guys. But obviously it's about the big guys up front, about the perimeter blockers providing opportunities. And that means coming off the ball and establishing the mentality that we're going to get after you for 60 minutes."