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The Falcoholic Midseason Position Review: Running Back

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Your definitive midseason position review. All other midseason position reviews are fake news.

Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coming into the season, we thought we would have seen a little out of fifth-round rookie Brian Hill. He got cut in favor of Terron Ward, who only plays on special teams. Literally. Ward doesn’t have a single offensive touch through eight games.

That really shouldn’t be a knock on Ward. The Atlanta Falcons easily have the league’s best starting running back duo, and it’s not even close. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman remain the bright spots on the offense, but we have heard a complaint or two about Steve Sarkisian’s use of the running backs.

OK, actually we have heard complaints about just about everything Sarkisian does. Can you believe he makes that super loud breathing gasp noise between each sip of his coffee? Ugh. The worst.

The $41.25 million dollar man

Devonta Freeman caused a little ruckus the playoffs and the offseason over his desire for a new deal. He got one, and is being paid like a lead back. I was expecting him to get a little more of the snaps, with Coleman limited more to passing plays. That was an incorrect expectation.

Freeman projects to have 228 rushing attempts for 1,024 yards, a 4.5 yard average, 10 touchdowns, and 38 receptions for 274 yards, a 7.2 average, and zero receiving touchdowns. That puts him... shockingly close to last season’s production, where he had 227 rushing attempts for 1,079 yards, a 4.8 yard average, 11 touchdowns, and 54 receptions for 462 yards, an 8.6 average, and 2 touchdowns. So he’s short .3 yards per carry, and has one less reception per game. Otherwise the numbers are almost identical.

He looks like normal Devonta Freeman on the field. Excellent vision, good balance, nice speed, and just a great player. The only thing I will note is that he maxes out at around 15 touches per game, minus weeks two through four where he was well above 20 touches per game.

So we may see his overall numbers drop, which, well, is one of the problems with the offense. There are way too many times where the Falcons lose every shot at time of possession in the second half because they don’t get a drive going.

Why isn’t Tevin Coleman catching more passes?

You know, I was wondering why Sarkisian was misusing Coleman so badly this season. He is rarely catching the ball, and is usually relegated to running the ball up the middle. His stats actually look better than last year.

Coleman is on pace for 126 attempts for 632 yards, 5.0 yards on average, for 2 touchdowns, and 32 receptions for 396 yards, a 12.4 average, and 4 touchdowns. 118 attempts for 520 yards, a 4.4 average, and 8 touchdowns, and 31 receptions for 421 yards, a 13.6 average, and 3 touchdowns.

THESE NUMBERS ARE DANG NEAR THE SAME.

His yards per carry are shockingly UP significantly, and he should end up with one more catch than last season. The only thing missing here is the touchdowns. Maybe that’d improve if the Falcons had a competent fullback.

Coleman is the same player as last year. He’s an electric home run hitter that lack’s Freeman’s vision, but makes up for it with his explosion.

The lead blocker

Derrick Coleman is the Falcons' fullback.

Conclusion

I’m not sure why the running game looks off, especially when they have found success against some great offenses. There haven’t been many statement games, but instead, some (mostly) surprising consistency for both backs. The numbers may end up very close to Atlanta’s historic offense in 2016, which will honestly be the measuring stick for some years.

Maybe if the Falcons had a decent fullback, the touchdowns would bounce back. I miss Patrick DiMarco, but we should see more red zone chances for Freeman and Coleman moving forward.