Coming into this season, many believed that third round draft selection Tevin Coleman would be the Falcons’ guy in the backfield. However, it is a fourth round selection from last year’s draft who has made a name for himself early in the season. In the team’s week 1 contest against Philadelphia, Coleman received 20 carries with Freeman seeing just 10. However, Coleman suffered a broken rib in week 2, giving Devonta the reigns as the every down back. He has not disappointed.
The Florida State product has only rushed for 252 yards thus far, but most of this is due in part to the Falcons’ offensive line finding their groove. In his two starts, Freeman has averaged 4.8 yards per carry and is the NFL’s rushing touchdown leader with 7 TDs. That’s impressive for a guy who does not exactly possess the ideal size for goal line situations.
I can’t write this article without giving some credit to the offensive line. New additions Chris Chester, Mike Person and Andy Levitre have excelled in the Zone Blocking Scheme that Kyle Shanahan instilled. The line was creating huge holes for the backs yesterday against a Houston defensive line that includes JJ Watt and Vince Wolfork.
Coleman is expected to return to practice next week, and it’s now unclear how the touches will be distributed. He is a big back and can compliment Freeman’s running style, but it’s going to be hard for him to get the king’s share if Freeman continues to dominate. The Atlanta running game is the best it has been since the early Michael Turner days. If the line can hold up, this Falcons’ offense can be nearly unstoppable with the connection that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have developed. Freeman also offers Ryan another option in the passing game. If you get Freeman in open space, he is dangerous.
It’s truly a headscratcher as to why Mike Smith and Co. ran with Steven Jackson last season with the way Freeman is performing. However, a lot of his success may be a product of the ZBS. We have seen in recent years how this type of system has made virtual unknowns such as Arian Foster, Alfred Morris and Justin Forsett into stars. This is not to take away from Freeman’s ability. This simply means that it better fits his skill set, and it widely benefits backs that have great vision and patience for blocks.
The Falcons’ running game situation will be worth monitoring, but mostly for fantasy owners. It could turn out to be a running back by comittee situation, but one thing is for sure: it’s working. They will likely go with the hot hand, and Devonta Freeman’s hand are on fire.