Falcons head coach Dan Quinn has been very clear about what he wants from his offense in 2015, including a well-balanced attack of run and pass. As a former defensive coordinator, Quinn watched countless hours of tape of opposing offenses and came away impressed by those that exhibited "tough, physical styles, something like the zone run game, yet then also had ways to attack vertically in the passing game," Quinn said.
Last week, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan offered further insight about the team's new offense in Kyle Shanahan's system, including what it asks of running backs, who have thrived in such a scheme.
"One thing you do see from this scheme is that they've had success everywhere they've gone, running the football," Ryan said. "They've allowed lots of different styles of back and lots of different guys to really do a great job, and they are very specific in what they do."
During Shanahan's seven-year career as an offensive coordinator in the NFL, (Houston, Washington and Cleveland), his scheme has led to fantastic individual efforts. Houston's Steve Slaton ran for 1,282 yards in 2008, and Redskins running back Alfred Morris rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two-consecutive seasons under Shanahan, 1,613 yards in 2012 and 1,275 yards in 2013.
The versatility in Shanahan's scheme also utilized a running-back-by-committee style in Cleveland, equaling a combined total of 1,613 rushing yards in 2014, thanks to the efforts by Terrance West (673) Isaiah Crowell (607) and Ben Tate (333).
The Falcons have depth and talent in their backfield, including running backs Antone Smith, who has plenty of speed and versatility, and second-year star Devonta Freeman, who's is ready for whatever workload he's given.
Regardless of who Ryan is giving the ball to in 2015, the style, scheme and overall success of the offensive system will be predicated on precise execution.
"We are going to be very specific in how we run the football," Ryan said. "I've gotten the sense that there is an emphasis on detail and attention to detail and doing the same thing over and over again to get the run game going."