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Falcons should have their best ground game since 2011

It's been a long five years.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, Michael Turner ran for 1,340 yards on 301 carries, scored 11 touchdowns, and averaged 4.5 yards per rush, the last in a series of truly phenomenal seasons for the bruising running back in Atlanta. The next year his played slipped, the year after that he was out of the NFL, and the Falcons have been chasing the dragon ever since.

Last year was a huge step in the right direction, with Devonta Freeman rushing for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns and averaging 4.0 yards per carry, with Tevin Coleman chipping in nearly 400 yards and a touchdown and averaging about 4.5 yards per carry. It's not a stretch to imagine those two combining, Voltron-style, into a running back committee that approximates some of Turner's best years in Atlanta, though neither one is likely to ever hit the heights of Turner's 2008 campaign.

Couple this with an improved offensive line and the addition of a couple of new offensive weapons in Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper (if they do turn out to be weapons), and you can feel optimistic about the offense. Go ahead, it's okay.

The beautiful thing here is that the Falcons don't need to give one players 300 carries to have an effective running game, and they don't have to worry about Devonta Freeman in particular on passing downs, since he's such a capable blocker and receiver. They'll be able to split carries between two young, talented backs and reap the benefits of that, and barring injury, this will be easily the best ground game they've had in a long time.