The Atlanta Falcons have signed free agent running back Jeremy McNichols, adding competition to an already crowded room. McNichols, smallish at 5-9 and 205, is a sort of "known quality'' as he played under Falcons head coach Arthur Smith in 2020 with the Tennessee Titans.
McNichols, 26, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017 but was released by the team before the season started. He spent his first three seasons bouncing around practice squads, making stops in San Francisco, Indianapolis, Denver, Tennessee, Chicago, and Jacksonville before returning to Tennessee before the start of the 2020 season.
The Titans proved to be a fine match for McNichols, as he had a career year working with Smith, posting 204 rushing yards and one touchdown on 47 carries, to go along with 12 receptions for 55 yards. That November, Smith said that McNichols did, "a hell of a job all year for us."
McNichols carved out a niche for himself last season, serving as a pass-catching option out of the backfield; he caught 28 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Despite the team releasing McNichols before the 2021 finale, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is a fan. “I would say that Jeremy is one of those players that’s taken advantage of his opportunities,” Vrabel said. “I love his toughness and he’s a player that puts the team first. He’s prepared and ready to go in there.
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"A lot of our success in (the Buffalo) game was due to Jeremy and his ability to protect on third down and protect in the passing game when they blitzed.”
In Atlanta, McNichols joins a backfield without a clear number one option. Cordarrelle Patterson will lead the way, but likely not as a workhorse. Free agent addition Damien Williams replaces Mike Davis as an early-downs power runner, while rookie Tyler Allgeier figures to be worked into the rotation as the season progresses.
McNichols will likely be competing with fourth-year pro Qadree Ollison for the final roster spot. Ollison is a short yardage specialist who also contributes on special teams. McNichols has a contrasting style to Ollison, as he thrives as a third-down back, both blocking and catching.
While McNichols' path to playing time isn't clear, his familiarity with Smith's offense will do nothing but help him see the field. Regardless, he'll provide competition to the running backs room, and will give Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot another viable option as they trim down the roster come August.