The Falcons running backs coach Desmond Kitchings told Tori McElhaney of The Athletic that the first thing he noticed about his position group is the amount of competition there will be — “the door is wide open” for anyone to take over and win the starting job. Mike Davis signed a two-year deal this offseason, which financially puts him in place to receive a bulk of the carries this year, but not if he can’t pass protect — the most important thing to Kitchings.

“At least there is one layer of communication that doesn’t have to happen because he [Dwayne Ledford] and I have worked together before,” Kitchings said to D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s not only in the run game, but that’s with protecting the quarterback. Which is a big (part) of playing running back.”

Not that Davis isn’t a capable blocker, but it leaves the door open for other backs to increase their workload. I already pegged Davis as a potential breakout candidate, but if he’s ineffective in that area of the game, he’ll lose snaps to those who can protect Matt Ryan. Enter Qadree Ollison, who could be in line for a breakout season given the opportunity, and he’s already impressing Arthur Smith during minicamp in the absence of Davis.

“Q has done a nice job, but again, at this point, all that we are basing it off of is what we’ve thrown at him,” Arthur Smith said Thursday via D. Orlando Ledbetter. “He’s doing a really nice job with the mental part and the (pass) protections. I’m very happy with his progress.”

Mike Clay believes Davis will take the majority of snaps in Atlanta’s backfield, predicting 205 carries for 804 yards and six touchdowns. The surprising aspect from Clay is Ollison’s projected stat line of 94 carries, 389 yards, and four touchdowns — making him the team’s second-leading rusher. The jury might be out on Ollison, given his limited experience in live-action, but many people around the league are pegging him to have an increased workload.

Terry Fontenot felt comfortable enough with Ollison that he passed on several running backs in the draft, which points towards the confidence he and Smith have in the third-year back. Ollison has the physicality and straight-line speed to be effective in this offense, especially as a depth piece behind Davis. If given the opportunity, though, Ollison may earn more and more snaps as a lead back. Cordarrelle Patterson is a different type of runner than Davis or Ollison. He hasn’t proven capable of shouldering the workload of a complementary back just yet, leaving the door wide open for Ollison to establish himself in this league.

Photographer: Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire

This article first appeared on SportsTalkATL and was syndicated with permission.

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