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#pounditTuesday, May 28, 2024

Arthur Smith responds to criticism of Bijan Robinson’s usage

Bijan Robinson warming up with the Falcons

Aug 18, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) runs off the field after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons have essentially refused to give rookie running back Bijan Robinson the ball when they get near the opposing team’s goal line, and head coach Arthur Smith is not about to admit that the approach has been a mistake.

Robinson has been by far Atlanta’s most exciting player this season. He frequently breaks tackles and makes defenders miss, but he has not had much of an opportunity to showcase those skills in the red zone. As Josh Kendall of The Athletic notes, the Falcons have run 41 plays from inside their opponent’s 10-yard line this season. Robinson has gotten just three touches in those situations.

Smith was asked on Monday about the criticism he has faced over his red-zone playcalling. He admitted that the Falcons “have to score more points” but defended not giving Robinson more opportunities.

“He played a lot of snaps (against Minnesota), and sometimes, his impact away from the ball can open things up,” Smith said. “For any rookie, the seasons are long. You’re going to have ebbs and flows. We’ll see how this second half of the season goes, but he’s been a huge part of our offense and he’ll continue to be.”

The Falcons rank 19th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency. They have kicked 10 field goals and scored just 5 touchdowns over their last three games. One sequence in Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings was particularly inexcusable for Atlanta’s offense.

Falcons linebacker Arnold Ebiketie’s had a strip-sack in the second quarter that was recovered by Lorenzo Carter and returned to the Minnesota 1-yard line. Atlanta then had a false start to make it 1st-and-goal from the 6. They got the 5 yards back on a completed pass to tight end Jonnu Smith. On 2nd down, the Falcons called a run play to Smith, which was stuffed.

Tyler Allgeier, who has received the majority of goal-line carries for Atlanta, was then dropped for a loss on 3rd down. The Falcons settled for a field goal in a game they eventually lost 31-28.

You can understand Smith wanting to manage Robinson’s workload, but the 215-pound back was very effective at the goal line and in short-yardage situations with Texas. There is no excuse for a tight end to be getting carries at the 1-yard line over Robinson. Perhaps Smith will realize that going forward.

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