The investment in the trenches the Falcons made this offseason were largely influenced by the running game. The defense added size in an effort to better defend the run while the offensive line brought in pieces to improve last year's 32nd rushing offense. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said last week there's no question the offense needs to run the ball more effectively.
"It's no secret we have to run the ball better than we did last year," Koetter said. "Atlanta, since (head) coach (Mike) Smith has been here, has always been a good running team, except last year."
Running back Steven Jackson is back for a second season with the Falcons and is looking to improve on a 2013 campaign that saw him rush for a career-low 543 yards. Jackson and the rest of the parts that make the run game go don't want to be known for last season's production and those improvements begin in OTAs.
"We by no means want to be known for that and we don't intend to have another year like that," Jackson said. "There's no reason to panic, it's not going to be three yards and a cloud of dust either. I think once all of our horses are back, we get the scheme going and guys adjust to (offensive line) coach (Mike) Tice's coaching style, I think we're going to be quite alright."
There will be no sweeping changes to the run game. Koetter said there would be no more running plays than what they've used in the past, but they're expecting the new pieces to work with the old to create an influential running game.
"We're going to be a better running football team, starting with the offensive line and progressing throughout the team," Koetter said. "We'll be more committed to it."
With the investment on the line in place, Jackson thinks specifically the late-game running will improve, giving the Falcons an opportunity to close out games on the ground. Jackson, for one, is excited about the opportunity to wear teams down.
"I'll be ready for it," he said. "Ive always prided myself on being able to go stronger through the game. With having favorable boxes, which I anticipate, I think we'll be quite OK."