Atlanta Falcons rookie RB Bijan Robinson is here and he is perfect.
In Atlanta’s come-from-behind win over the Green Bay Packers, Robinson was masterful, running for 124 yards on 19 carries and adding on 48 yards receiving on six receptions. Not only that, but he was the engine behind Atlanta’s comeback, with the Falcons leaning on the run game and getting explosive play after explosive play on the ground. He’s brought a different gear to the Atlanta run game, all while making the offense more versatile and dynamic. Let’s see what he did against Green Bay that makes him such a special back.
The first thing that stands out about Robinson is his ability to make people miss and always generate positive plays on the ground. Through two games, among all players with 20 or more carries, Robinson is third in Broken Tackle + Missed Tackle rate at 27.6% and fourth in Positive Play Rate. That means almost 28% of the time, Bijan is making a defender miss. When you combine this with how potent and layered the Falcons run game is, you get consistently positive runs like the Falcons do.
Here, Atlanta is running a weakside zone play with jet motion attached to it. The motion holds up the linebacker for just a split second, but watch how Bijan sets up the hole, presses, then bounces to another hole without taking any major hits. It’s like he’s just kind of gliding out there on the field, moving at a different speed than anyone else.
Among Bijan’s reel of highlight-worthy runs against the Packers, this one stands out the most. Lead outside zone toss, but the EDGE gets through a Jonnu Smith block. That’s no problem for Robinson, who puts his foot in the ground makes the EDGE rusher touch turf. Then the safety comes up to try and make this tackle on Robinson, but the same result happens. Robinson turns the safety into a statue, and before he goes down he hits one more defender with the cutback. There are no words to use for Robinson’s style of running outside of WOW, or HOLY S***.
Where the Falcons really enjoy using him is in versatile formations with RB Tyler Allgeier on the field as well. Through two games the Falcons are third in the NFL in dropbacks with 2 running backs on the field and fourth in rushing attempts with the same number of backs on the field. Of course, this can be skewed by Falcons FB Keith Smith being on the field often, but having Allgeier and Robinson on the field together puts teams in a bind personnel wise. You can’t line up light because they’ll run you over, but if you go heavy Robinson is beating your linebacker in the passing game.
The Falcons are in 21 personnel with Robinson lined up in the slot and Allgeier in the backfield. The Packers decide to go to their Penny package, with 5 linemen on the LOS and 1 linebacker. Robinson goes into orbit motion behind the QB and Allgeier and this turns into an RPO for Robinson, with a running start. Now he has the leverage and two receivers blocking two defenders and a safety coming from depth. It’s easy money and a first down.
This pass play is designed as a simple read for QB Desmond Ridder to look at Robinson, and it comes at a crucial moment in the game. Empty formation, Robinson is out wide. The linebacker walked out over Robinson out wide gives Ridder a tell that this is more than likely going to be man coverage. Linebacker is lined up super far off because he’s afraid of getting beat deep, and the concept is simple. Fade by the slot receiver gives Robinson the leverage inside with a bunch of grass in front of him, and Ridder hits him for a huge first down. This is how you get your best players the ball in advantageous situations. Arthur Smith read the tweets.
Before we get to the end of this, just enjoy another Bijan Robinson run for your viewing pleasure. Look at the cutback, so precise.
Robinson has given the Falcons so much more explosion and versatility, and it’s part of the reason the Falcons are 2-0 despite middling QB play. He’s an extremely fun player who is exactly what the Falcons needed.