Nov 17, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Antone Smith (35) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 41-28. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Antone Smith: Atlanta Falcons RB Sleeper of the Year?

While it was the Atlanta Falcons’ starting offense that captured most of the headlines from last night’s preseason game, running back Antone Smith stole the show in a very different fashion.

The 5’9″ back put up just five yards rushing, but his on-field performance was actually one of the more entertaining of the night. Due to some poorly-timed penalties (one by rookie Jake Matthews), Smith had over 90 yards taken away from him last night. His ankle-breaking jukes and impressive burst stole the show on two plays that didn’t even make the final box-score – unfortunate for his stats, but not for his future with the Falcons.

Smith proved that his big-play potential is still very alive after a 2013 season where he rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries. Three of those rushes went for over 35 yards.

The Falcons are going to want to use Smith a bit more in games this year simply due to his ability to “find” the big play. No matter what he’s doing in practice to keep him back on the depth chart, his in-game heroics have earned him enough respect to stand out in the coaches’ eyes.

Here’s what Mike Smith said about his third-string running back, per ESPN:

“Antone had some very explosive plays,” Smith said. “Antone’s a guy that can do some things when we get the ball in his hands. So, I would imagine we want to make that we have a game plan that will help him get some touches [and] to put him in advantageous situations…”

Either Smith was in a friendly mood with the media, or the Falcons may actually have significant plans to use Antone a bit more in the future. He’ll have to battle with Jacquizz Rodgers for snaps behind Steven Jackson, but there’s no reason to believe the Falcons are going to keep Smith on the bench when they don’t need to.

Jackson is getting older and Rodgers can be very up-and-down, opening some doors for Smith to make more headlines in the Georgia Dome this year.

Tags: Antone Smith Atlanta Falcons

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