The Falcons first-string running back, Steven Jackson, missed the preseason opener while nursing a hamstring injury, and Jacquizz Rodgers, who started in place of Jackson, struggled. But the Falcons liked what they saw of backup running backs Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith.
Freeman entered the game in the second quarter and had outstanding numbers, finishing with 50 yards on 10 carries, while also adding a 57-yard catch. Smith spent some time playing with the first-string offense, and although his numbers didn’t look impressive, he had two big plays (a 34-yard catch and a 76-yard touchdown run) called back by penalties. Falcons coach Mike Smith liked what he saw.
“Antone had some very explosive plays,” Smith said. “Antone’s a guy that can do some things when we get the ball in his hands. I would imagine we would want to make sure to help him get some touches, put him in an advantageous situation, but I was very impressed with him. I was impressed with Devonta Freeman, in terms of how he ran the ball for the most part. We did some positive things.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan loved watching what the backup running backs can do.
“There were two things that I was really excited about tonight,” Ryan said after the game. “One was Devonta Freeman. He played extremely well, watching from the sideline. Then, there was Antone Smith. Both of those plays got called back but he showed the explosiveness that he has and the speed that he can change a game on any given play. It was fun to watch.”
It may have been less fun for Jackson and Rodgers, who may have been watching their backups earn the opportunity to take carries away from them when the regular season starts.