Welcome to our final running series of the offseason! We'll be going position-by-position and simply deciding whether that position is in better shape in 2016 than 2015. Enjoy!
2016 running back depth chart projection
RB Devonta Freeman RB1
RB Tevin Coleman RB2
RB Terron Ward RB3
FB Patrick DiMarco Fullback
2015 running back depth chart
RB Tevin Coleman (to start the season)
RB Devonta Freeman
RB Terron Ward
FB Patrick DiMarco
I expect Terron Ward to win the third roster spot again this season, and while I do think Devonta Freeman has earned the starting running back spot, I think he and Coleman will split carries more equally. The team has said that they'd like to give Freeman a reduced workload, and it makes sense to keep both Freeman and Coleman fresh to maximize productivity.
Last year, two of the four players in this position group ended up at the Pro Bowl. It was a pretty good year for Atlanta's running backs, even though their productivity declined as the season went on. A lot will depend on the effectiveness of the offensive line and the backs' ability to stay reasonably healthy.
It's year two in Shanahan's system, which should help all of the running backs, who should be more comfortable. Freeman has shown that he can be a dynamic rusher and pass-catcher out of the backfield. Coleman needs to overcome some issues with fumbles and, of course, stay healthy. Ward did just fine last season when he was needed on the field, and DiMarco was great when he was utilized.
Is it better?
With another offseason to acclimate to the scheme and opportunities for both Freeman and Coleman to tote the rock, I think the running backs should be better this season. Freeman has exceeded expectations, but Coleman demonstrated what he could do in college, and remember, he was good enough to win the starting job last season. As long as run blocking is adequate, it should be a good year for the Falcons' rushing attack.