In 2016, the Falcons had arguably the best 1-2 punch in football at the running back position. Devonta Freeman ran through, over, and around defenses all year long, while Tevin Coleman just ran by them, and they combined for over 1,600 yards on the ground. They also reeled in nearly 900 yards through the air, and combined for a total of 24 touchdowns. You’d be hard-pressed to ask for better results, and as long as the Falcons have both those guys in the backfield, they’ll be a lethal offense.
For 2017, it’s worth pondering how the team will dole out touches to Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The two of them should account for 85-90% of all running back touches, with rookie Brian Hill and whoever wins the fullback job mixing in, but they may not share the ball in identical fashion to the way they did in 2016. Last year, Freeman got 227 carries and 65 targets, while Coleman got 118 carries and 40 targets. That means Freeman got twice as many looks in this offense, which makes sense when you consider just how good Freeman is, and how well-rounded his game is.
Under Sakisian, I wouldn’t be stunned if that ratio largely stays the same. The Falcons have publicly signaled their intent to keep Freeman around over the long haul, and while Coleman was drastically improved in 2016, he’s still far more devastating in smaller doses and as a receiver. Freeman can wear you down, meanwhile, and does his best work when he’s getting volume. You might see the ratio adjusted a little bit—particularly in terms of the passing game, where Coleman is ridiculously deadly—but Freeman’s a good bet to once again dominate the timeshare.
Any way you slice it, the Falcons only need these two players to stay healthy in order to once again be one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL. That’s #nice.