The Atlanta Falcons announced on Saturday that they’ve placed running back Ito Smith on injured reserve. In a corresponding move, the team also signed offensive lineman Sean Harlow to the active roster from the practice squad. Smith suffered a concussion against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7 and has been out ever since.
The 24-year-old was the No. 2 back in Atlanta behind starter Devonta Freeman and was able to rush for 106 yards and one touchdown on 22 carries this season. He also logged 11 catches for 87 yards in his complementary role. With Smith now heading to IR, Brian Hill will likely elevate to the backup spot behind Freeman. The 2017 fifth-round pick out of Wyoming has 40 rushing yards on the season on a five yards per carry clip to go along with a touchdown. He’s also caught both of his targets for 14 yards.
As it relates to Sunday’s contest with the New Orleans Saints, the running game should continue to lean on Freeman, who has averaged just 75.6 yards from scrimmage this season. Those struggles may continue in this matchup as New Orleans has allowed just 84.3 rushing yards per game this season, ranking in the top five of the league.
Beyond this season, it will be curious to see how the Atlanta backfield ultimately comes into focus for 2020. Smith is signed through the 2021 season at a pretty cheap price point. Meanwhile, the Falcons do have an out in Freeman’s contract after this season as his dead cap hit is cut essentially in half. With that in mind, this unit could see plenty of turnover in a few months and Smith, if healthy, could come back to an even bigger role in the offense.