The Atlanta Falcons used the No. 8 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on running back Bijan Robinson, despite unearthing fifth-round starter Tyler Allgeier last year. The makeup of the Falcons' backfield portends to the ground-and-pound offense coach Arthur Smith prefers.
In a pass-first league, Atlanta is zigging while others are zagging, but starting quarterback Desmond Ridder said Monday on NFL Network's Good Morning Football that the explosiveness from the backfield will make the Falcons' offense much more dangerous.
"As an offense, you look for explosive plays, and get 'em anyway you can, whether that's to Drake (London), whether that's to Kyle (Pitts), a guy like Jonnu (Smith), Mack Hollins, it doesn't matter," Ridder said. "But then when you can just hand the ball off and give it to a guy like Tyler Allgeier or Bijan or C.P. (Cordarrelle Patterson) and let them go, it just makes my job a lot easier. So when they drafted Bijan, I just knew that this offense has something to be explosive. We're able to go out there, and whether it's the run game, pass game, play-action, doesn't matter, we think that we're gonna be pretty explosive."
On paper, pieces for the Falcons' offense lend to explosiveness. The backfield is stocked, particularly if Robinson hits the ground running as expected. London showed as a rookie he owns WR1 skills. Pitts has uber-athletic traits that make him a matchup nightmare from the TE spot. Smith fits better in this offense than he ever did in New England. There are depth questions in the receiver corps, but the top of the skill-position corps are stellar in a winnable NFC South.
"However that comes, we just want to be explosive," Ridder said. "Whether it's in the run game, the pass game, whatever it may be, obviously this is a game where you got to put points up on the board, and that's something that we want to do as an offense, all the while taking care of the ball, controlling the game, just doing what you have to do to go out there and win. So from the Falcons offense, we can just go out there, just play our hardest and expect to be explosive."
The biggest question for Atlanta is whether Ridder is the guy under center. The 2022 third-round pick started four games down the stretch as a rookie. He had flashes, but there were also moments of struggle. He averaged 177 passing yards per game over the four contests with two touchdown tosses and zero interceptions.
This offseason, the Falcons doubled down on Ridder, only bringing in veteran Taylor Heinicke as a backup, eschewing the options to add legit competition for the second-year signal-caller.
"It feels good knowing that they have the trust in me, that they've seen that I've put in the work and the effort as long as everyone else to go out there and lead the team," he said. "Obviously throughout the offseason, you hear all the talks and everything. But just knowing from them, that they have my full trust and respect, that they know that I can go out here and lead our team, it means everything to me."
The upgrades on defense have the Falcons believing they could win a gettable NFC South division title in 2023. How that quest plays out will depend on Ridder's development in Year 2.