The Falcons were running themselves into a roster problem before Thursday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins. Brian Hill bulled himself into the picture in the Hall of Fame game with an 11 carry, 51 yards performance. Against the Dolphins Qadree Ollison entered his name into the competition with eight carries, 41 yards and one touchdown. Then there’s Kenjon Barner.
In the second quarter, Kenjon Barner lined up in the left slot. At the snap he retreated two steps, took the pass from Matt Schaub, slipped one tackle and was gone for 37-yards. Unfortunately for Barner he was caught and ruled down at the one-yard line. Brian Hill finished the four-play drive from there.
The difference between Barner’s touchdown and Ollison’s later run is that Ollison followed some excellent blocking and went into the end zone untouched. No, that’s not a bad thing. Barner quickly shook one tackle, then showed how dangerous he is when he gets the ball in space. He made men miss and outran the rest on his way to the end zone.
The Falcons need a running back who has the potential to break a play every time he touches the ball. There’s no doubt about what Devonta Freeman brings to the team as the starter. The problem is the backup. Ito Smith, Brian Hill and Quadree Ollison are all basically the same runner. They all have shown themselves to be good, tough runners, but they lack the element of speed and deception that Barner adds to the offense when he’s on the field.
Barner can line up as a running back, go in motion to line up in the slot, like he did against the Dolphins, or go in motion, then cut back across the field as the ball is snapped. Whatever Dirk Koetter has him do, it freezes linebackers for a split second as they attempt to react to a play. Smith, Hill or Ollison wouldn’t fool a linebacker for a second.
Many opinions the past couple of days has Barner only making the team if he can double as the punt return specialist the Falcons desperately need. The money here says that Barner showed what he could do for this offense against the Dolphins. It’s one of the other three who will finish the preseason as the odd man out.