Arguably no offensive player on the Atlanta Falcons roster benefited more from Kyle Shanahan's arrival than Devonta Freeman. The second-year running back churned out a career year and became the first running back since Michael Turner in 2011 to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He also earned a Pro Bowl berth and was named to the All-Pro second-team roster. Let's explore Freeman's season in more detail.
A breakout campaign
Freeman finished the 2015 season with 1,056 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, a year made more remarkable by the fact he wasn't the starter entering Week 1. Rookie Tevin Coleman was given the reigns in the running game after Freeman strained his right hamstring in the first week of training camp and missed the entire preseason. After Coleman was injured in Week 2 against the New York Giants, however, it was Freeman's time to take over.
Even backing up Coleman, Freeman received 29 touches, totaling 106 yards (43 rushing, 63 receiving). It wasn't until Week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys — his first career start — that the fourth-round draft pick really showed his value. In that game he was a true workhorse, carrying the ball 30 times 141 yards and three touchdowns — all career highs. To prove that outing wasn't a fluke, he tacked on three more rushing touchdowns the following week against the Houston Texans.
Freeman also proved his receiving prowess. He was targeted frequently in the passing game, and he finished the year with 73 receptions (second only to Julio Jones) for 578 yards and three touchdowns. And let's not forget his tenacity in pass protection.
We saw glimpses of Freeman's ability in 2014, but he didn't get many opportunities buried behind Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers. Now we know what he's capable of.
Freeman's entering the third year of his four-year rookie contract. He could be in line for a decent extension if his stellar play continues.
I'm confident we'll see more of the same from Freeman in 2016, with the potential for more if the Falcons upgrade a few positions on offense.
Isn't it nice having a capable rushing attack?