Falcons beat writer Vaughn McClure:
The running back position became compelling when the Falcons drafted Indiana’s Tevin Coleman in the third round. Coleman, a 2,000-yard rusher last season, boldly claimed he was ready to take over the starting job. Problem is, the Falcons have expressed plenty of faith in second-year player Devonta Freeman, who told me he wants to take his game to another level and maybe be in the MVP conversation one day. Freeman and Coleman will push each other daily, which should only benefit the Falcons going into the 2015 season. Freeman has impressed the new coaching staff with his pass-catching skills, while both players have to show the ability to consistently block when it comes to pass protection. I anticipate a two-back system with equal reps as the Falcons make a concerted effort to bring more offensive balance with a stronger run game. And don’t count out the contribution of explosive Antone Smith, who could be back to his old self once he fully recovers from a broken leg.
We currently project Coleman for 248 touches and Freeman for 160, with Smith seeing 68 touches if his leg is fully recovered. This could be a fairly ugly committee, though the overall production could be solid with Kyle Shanahan running things.
Falcons running back Antone Smith, who suffered a fractured right leg while covering a punt against Carolina on Nov. 16, has started running during his rehabilitation.
“The recovery is going pretty good,” Smith said on Tuesday. “I’m up and running. I’m almost full force, but not quite where I need to be. In time, that will take care of itself.”
Smith is not likely to be cleared when the Falcons open their organized team activities on Tuesday.
Smith believes that he’s a fit for the team’s new outside-zone blocking scheme.
“It’s a fit for my skill set, but it’s a fit for anybody that wants to run the ball,” Smith said. “They want to run the ball here and that’s the biggest thing. They want to run the ball. I don’t care who’s the running back you want to be in this scheme right here. I’m happy for this scheme.”
Along with Devonta Freeman, Smith is a reason we're tepid about rookie Tevin Coleman. It's possible that Coleman wins a feature job in the Falcons' backfield, but Freeman showed some pass-catching chops as a rookie and Smith has racked up 518 yards and seven touchdowns on 44 career touches.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 7:10pm
Smith has averaged 11.8 yards and 0.16 TD per touch on 44 career touches.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015, 10:31am
The Falcons need to upgrade in the backfield and that's likely to start with the release of veteran Steven Jackson. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan brings with him an emphasis on the outside zone-blocking scheme and one-cut-and-go mentality for the running backs. The Falcons will benefit from having younger legs in such a scheme. Don't discount second-year player Devonta Freeman, who is eager to take the next step and could thrive in the system. But the Falcons need more bodies, and Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith are headed to free agency. Keep an eye on Justin Forsett, who also is bound for free agency. Forsett thrived in the zone-blocking scheme the past season en route to a career-high 1,266 rushing yards. And Forsett is represented by the same agent who represents Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Friday, November 21, 2014, 6:26pm
Falcons RB Steven Jackson (illness, probable) returned to take full practice reps Friday after missing practice Thursday and is probable for Week 12. Jackson has a pretty good matchup against the Browns. Devonta Freeman might see a few extra touches with Antone Smith done for the year.
Smith suffered the injury while on the punt-coverage unit early in the fourth quarter. He had to be helped off the field and was on crutches following the game.
The loss of Smith takes away one of the Falcons' most dangerous offensive weapons. He currently is tied with Roddy White for the team lead with five touchdowns. Smith also was one of the Falcons' best special teams players.
Friday, November 7, 2014, 6:15pm
Falcons RB Antone Smith (neck, questionable) took full practice reps on Friday after being limited earlier in the week and is questionable for Week 10. Smith isn’t worth the risk this week. If you’re looking for a what-the-heck start from Atlanta (not named Steven Jackson), give Devonta Freeman a try.
Thursday, November 6, 2014, 6:28pm
Falcons RB Antone Smith (neck) took limited practice reps again Thursday. Consider Smith questionable for Week 10.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014, 6:08pm
Falcons RB Antone Smith (neck) took limited practice reps Wednesday.
Monday, November 3, 2014, 8:48am
Smith, in the last year of his contract, leads the team with five touchdowns.
Monday, October 6, 2014, 8:45am
Whenever he touches the ball these days, Antone Smith is expected to score.
The diminutive Atlanta Falcons running back entered Sunday's game against the Giants with three touchdowns in just 13 touches. His 48-yard touchdown run against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4 was highlighted on the weekly media guide going into the Giants game.
So what did Smith do? He simply scored his fourth explosive touchdown on a 74-yard, catch-and-run during the third quarter of Sunday's 30-20 loss. Smith's four touchdowns this season -- a 48-yard rush, and 38-yard rush, a 54-yard catch-and-run, and the 74-yarder Sunday --- have averaged 53.5 yards. And he has been battling a right hamstring issue since the start of the season, too.
Smith had four touches total against the Giants.
So far Smith as been getting about 2-4 touches a game. He's worth a stash if you have the room, but until we see more he's going to be a risky play despite his big-play capability.
Friday, September 26, 2014, 6:33pm
Falcons RB Antone Smith (hamstring, probable) took full practice reps all week and is probable for Week 4.
Thursday, September 25, 2014, 6:48pm
Falcons RB Antone Smith (hamstring) took full practice reps again Thursday.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 7:09pm
Falcons RB Antone Smith (hamstring) practiced fully Wednesday.
Monday, September 22, 2014, 4:47pm
“We’ll give (an update) on Wednesday at 4 o’clock, there will be an injury report,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said after practice on Monday. “It will happen at 4 on Wednesday.”
Smith believes revealing injuries before he’s required to by the league office somehow gives the opposition an competitive advantage.
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