The Atlanta Falcons are expected to have perhaps the best running back rotation in the NFL this season. But they won’t be at full strength in the offensive backfield to begin training camp.
The Falcons announced on July 20 that the team has placed running back Caleb Huntley on the PUP list.
Huntley is still recovering from an Achilles tendon tear he suffered in Week 15 last season. Although some players, such as Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, have returned considerably quicker from Achilles tendon tears, the typical recovery time for such an injury is 11 months.
If Huntley takes that long to recover, then he won’t be fully healthy until after the midseason point.
Falcons head coach Arthur Smith declined to give a better idea of when the 24-year-old running back could return when talking about his injury during offseason workouts.
“With Caleb, again we’ll just assess but I’m optimistic and I don’t want to put that out there so I’m not going to give you a date,” Smith said on June 13 according to Atlantafalcons.com. “But [he is] certainly trending in a positive direction.”
If Huntley remains on the PUP list after the preseason, he will automatically miss the first four regular season games.
The good news is the Falcons have plenty of running backs to use while Huntley recovers.
Rookie Bijan Robinson is expected to play a major role in the backfield. Tyler Allgeier also returns as the team’s 2022 leading rusher and 1,000-yard runner.
Finally, the Falcons still have veteran Cordarrelle Patterson. The 32-year-old can play a variety of roles on offense and special teams.
Huntley was an undrafted free agent for the Falcons in 2021. He spent his rookie season on the team’s practice squad. That’s where he also began the 2022 campaign, but Huntley made his NFL debut in Week 2 against the Rams.
In 12 games last season, Huntley posted 366 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also caught 2 passes for 3 yards.
Until Huntley returns, the Falcons won’t have much depth behind their big three backs.
Atlanta already lost 25-year-old Avery Williams for the season. He suffered a knee injury in early June.
Williams averaged 5 yards per carry on 22 attempts in 2022. The Falcons also used him as a returner.
Undrafted players Clint Ratkovich and Carlos Washington Jr. are the only other two running backs on Atlanta’s 90-man roster.