Sep 17, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) passes to tight end Kyle Pitts (8) against the Green Bay Packers during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith: Falcons need ‘more explosives’ to complement run game

If the Atlanta Falcons expect to get back into the win column when they play the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday, they will have to re-establish their running game following a 20-6 road loss to Detroit.

The Lions held the Falcons’ (2-1) vaunted rushing attack, led by dynamic rookie Bijan Robinson, to just 44 yards. And due to Atlanta’s inability to get the running backs going, Detroit was able to take aim at second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was sacked seven times.

It showed just how important the Falcons’ run game is to their success.

“We dropped back more than we had in a while,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said in Monday’s press conference. “The run game is not going to be great every week. When we are not getting the counters off the run game and getting those going, whether that’s in the play-actions, screens or movement passes, well, that does really make you one-dimensional.”

Despite the disappointing showing in Detroit, Atlanta enters its matchup with the Jaguars (1-2) ranked ninth in the league in rushing (128.3 yards per game). Conversely, the Falcons sit 28th in passing yards (155 yards per game).

Through three games, Robinson is the team’s leader in rushing (213 yards) and receptions (14 for 102 yards and a score). Wideout Mack Hollins has just seven catches, but he leads Atlanta at 114 yards.

Tight end Kyle Pitts is coming off his best game of the season (five catches for 41 yards) against Detroit, but he and second-year receiver Drake London, two of the team’s most explosive players, have yet to take the top off defenses.

Smith felt the offense needs to connect on more big plays in the passing game.

“It’s not for a lack of trying, but we’ve got to hit some more explosives,” Smith said.

After winning its opener against the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville has dropped consecutive games to the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.

Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence has completed 73 of 113 passes for 736 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, through three games. Tailback Travis Etienne is the team’s leading rusher with 205 yards and a score on 49 carries. He’s also caught 11 passes for 79 yards.

Tight end Evan Engram has made 18 receptions for 173 yards for Jacksonville but has yet to find the end zone this season. Former Falcon Calvin Ridley has 13 receptions for 173 yards and a score.

Smith wants his players and coaches focused on beating a talented Jaguars squad in England.

“We got to take a step back and all of us get in the bunker and see how we can get better.” Smith said. “We are 2-1, thankfully. We got a big game in London against a team that’s going to have the same mindset (as Detroit a week ago). … We know what they’re about. They are a talented football team with a really good coaching staff.”

–Smith said the arm/shoulder injury to starting linebacker Troy Anderson on Sunday “didn’t look good.” An official prognosis was not yet made.

–Atlanta safety Jessie Bates III has three interceptions through three games. Former safety Thomas DeCoud (2012) is the only other Falcons player to accomplish that feat in franchise history.

–Jacksonville starting right tackle Anton Harrison injured his leg in the loss to the Texans and could be out for Sunday’s game.

–Field Level Media

Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA;  Texas running back Bijan Robinson with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Atlanta Falcons eighth overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Young, Bijan Robinson top odds for Offensive ROY

The first quarterback and first running back selected in the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday are the co-favorites to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Top overall pick Bryce Young, the Alabama quarterback selected by the Carolina Panthers, and No. 8 pick Bijan Robinson, the Texas running back chosen by the Atlanta Falcons, are both listed by FanDuel and BetMGM at +400 odds to claim Offensive Rookie of the Year.

DraftKings posted Robinson as a +400 favorite, with Young just behind at +475.

The next two quarterbacks off the board after Young were listed as the No. 3 and No. 4 choices by FanDuel and BetMGM.

Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, drafted second overall by the Houston Texans, was posted at +600 by FanDuel, +650 by BetMGM. Florida’s Anthony Richardson, selected fourth overall by the Indianapolis Colts, has odds of +700 at FanDuel, +650 at BetMGM.

DraftKings has Stroud at +700 and Richardson at +1200, the fourth- and sixth-best odds, respectively. New Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, chosen 20th out of Ohio State, is third at DraftKings (+650). New Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs, the No. 12 overall pick out of Alabama, had +850 odds at DraftKings.

Smith-Njigba is listed at +700 by BetMGM, +800 by FanDuel. Gibbs is at +2500 according to FanDuel and BetMGM.

New Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison, chosen 23rd out of Southern California, has +1600 odds at DraftKings and FanDuel, while BetMGM lists him at +1400.

Others with odds of +2000 or lower at one or more of the books were Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Quentin Johnson (No. 21 out of TCU) and Baltimore Ravens receiver Zay Flowers (No. 22 out of Boston College), plus three players who weren’t selected in the first round: Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker and UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson (5) runs the ball during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Texas RB Bijan Robinson to skip bowl, enter draft

Texas running back Bijan Robinson announced Monday he is skipping the Alamo Bowl and entering the NFL draft.

Robinson won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back in 2022 after rushing for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns in 12 games. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry and added 19 catches for 314 yards and two TDs.

“I’ve done everything that I tried to do in God’s plan for me while I’ve been here,” Robinson told reporters Monday. “It’s time to start the new journey. I’m just excited to figure out another part of my life, just like I tried to figure it out here.”

Robinson ranks fourth in Longhorns history with 3,410 career rushing yards, trailing Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson and Earl Campbell.

The 6-foot, 220-pound junior from Tucson, Ariz., was ranked last week as the No. 1 running back in the 2023 draft class by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

No. 20 Texas (8-4) faces No. 12 Washington (10-2) in the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl at San Antonio.

–Field Level Media

A referee checks on Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) after an injury during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

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Longhorns RB Bijan Robinson (elbow) done for season

Texas running back Bijan Robinson, the third-leading rusher in the Big 12 Conference, is done for the season after dislocating his elbow.

Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian on Monday said cornerback Josh Thompson is also done for the season with a fractured fibula.

Robinson was injured Saturday in the Longhorns’ stunning 57-56 overtime loss to visiting Kansas.

Robinson rushed for 70 yards on 5.0 yards per carry and had a touchdown reception against the Jayhawks before exiting.

On the season, Robinson has rushed for 1,127 yards, behind only Breece Hall of Iowa State (1,164) and Abram Smith (1,203) of Baylor in the Big 12, and No. 9 in all of FBS. Robinson also had 26 catches for 295 yards and four receiving touchdowns, good for second on the Longhorns this season. He has 15 TDs overall.

Robinson rushed for 703 yards and four TDs as a freshman in 2020.

The Longhorns are expected to fill the void with Roschon Johnson, Keilan Robinson and Jonathon Brooks.

Thompson had 34 tackles and an interception in nine games.

Texas (4-6) has two games remaining and must win both to become bowl eligible.

–Field Level Media