The Atlanta Falcons have been one of the NFL‘s most mysterious teams in 2023. Curious play designs, uncertainty at quarterback, and unbearably-close losses have Atlanta on the fringes of the playoff picture at the season’s halfway point — and many fans were frustrated by one player’s lack of involvement in Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Yes, Bijan Robinson is back in the news — but not for anything he’s done. Rather, it’s for what he isn’t doing. Robinson had only 13 touches in Sunday’s three-point loss at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — and head coach Arthur Smith continues to befuddle audiences with his explanations as to why the eighth overall pick in the 2023 draft isn’t taking over games.
Smith’s confusing response
Speaking to reporters this week, Smith tried to explain his methodology and why he has been using Robinson in such an erratic manner.
“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. He still has a huge impact on the game.”
Smith iterated that Robinson will be a “huge part” of the Atlanta offense moving forward, and he doesn’t want to overuse the former Texas Longhorns star. But the Falcons‘ front office surely cannot be pleased that it spent a top-10 pick on a versatile running back who is only a complementary piece of the offense.
It’s worth noting that Smith has come in for further criticism in how he has employed wide receiver Drake London and tight end Kyle Pitts in recent seasons. Both players were top-10 picks, just like Robinson.
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Perhaps more aggressive usage of Robinson — one of the Falcons‘ most explosive assets on offense — would have helped Atlanta avoid an embarrassing 31-28 loss to Minnesota on Sunday, in which quarterback Joshua Dobbs led a game-winning drive in the dying seconds…despite joining the team just days earlier and not knowing his teammates’ names.
The defeat dropped Atlanta to 4-5 and knocked it out of first place in the NFC South — which now belongs to the New Orleans Saints, at 5-4. Despite having a talented offense (albeit one without a franchise quarterback) and an underrated defense, the Falcons are in serious danger of blowing a shot to return to the postseason for the first time in six years. Their game in Arizona against the Cardinals next Sunday is one they have to have.