It is pretty obvious who the best running back duo is in the NFL without bias. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are light years ahead of the next duo of running backs in the league, and Freeman (25) and Coleman (24) have not even hit their primes yet. Freeman is set to enter his last year on his rookie contract with Atlanta, while Coleman still has two years remaining. This dynamic duo was an immense reason why the Falcons offense was as dominate as they were last year. We can take a more in-depth look at what these two brought to the table last year and what to expect in 2017.
Freeman rushed for over 1000 yards last season (1079), while reaching the endzone 11 times. Coleman rushed for 520 yards and found the endzone eight times. Both of these guys have a similar running style. They are both quick, agile, and strong with or without the ball. They both have excellent vision in order to find the tiniest of holes to bolster a scary rushing attack. One trait that they both possess that put them ahead of many others at their position is their ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
The video above shows a reason why opposing defenses have problems containing these two backs. Above is Tevin Coleman lining up in the slot against Brandon Marshall. The Broncos are running man-to-man on Coleman, and he scores a 31 yard touchdown on a seam route. Coleman’s quickness off the line easily beats Marshall, has the hands to catch a dime from Ryan, and the speed to get to the endzone before Denver’s safeties tackle him.
This play was in Week 3 against the Saints. There are eight men in the box for New Orleans, and that is because they had to respect the running game of Atlanta. One reason Kyle Shanahan excelled last year as an offensive coordinator for this team were reasons like that, where he can create opportunities where he can find one-on-one matchups that Atlanta had an advantage in. Ryan throws a swing pass out to Freeman, and as you can see, a Saints linebacker is matched up on Freeman. I am not taking anything away from Jake Matthews as he is blocking downfield, but there is no doubt in my mind Freeman was finding the endzone on that reception with or without help.
This duo is highly regarded as the top one-two punch in the NFL today, and opposing coaches have to respect that when they play Atlanta. The Falcons have all their weapons back from last season on offense, and they look to continue to grow as a unit. Freeman is the starter and Coleman is considered the backup, but many realize that there is no label with these two. Ryan won the MVP last season and is one of the best quarterbacks in this league, but every quarterback needs a running back, or multiple, to take the pressure off of them. Freeman and Coleman played excellent last season, and now will be playing with a chip on their shoulders. Freeman recently told the media, “Last year, I left some runs out there. Also in the open field, continue to make guys miss, punishing guys. I just want to be real disrespectful this year when it comes to football.” With that being said, good luck to every defense that has to face these two beasts next season.