Nov 30, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) runs the ball against the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, the Atlanta Falcons had the ninth worst rushing attack in the NFL, with just 1,498 yards on the ground. Despite this, the Falcons finished eighth in total offense due to their passing game.
Only the Falcons and Indianapolis Colts managed to finish in the top ten in total offense despite being in the bottom half for rushing yards. This year, with a new blocking scheme, and the influx of young running backs, the Falcons won’t have to be handicapped by a poor run game on offense.
Cutting Steven Jackson will be a premier case of addition by subtraction for the run game this season. I take nothing away from what Jackson did in his years at St. Louis, he was a beast, but it was clear last year that he just wasn’t the same running back that he used to be.
The former Ram tallied just one 100 yard rushing game in his two years as a Falcon despite being given the bulk of the work over that time. Last season, he totaled just 707 yards with a disappointing 3.7 yards per carry. Despite the inefficiency, Mike Smith decided to beat a dead horse and kept giving him the rock.
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The Falcons had two other capable running backs behind Jackson who were kept on the bench. Antone Smith made big play after big play at the start of the season, before breaking his leg. Smith was given just 23 carries but made good use of them, tallying up a 6.3 ypg, in addition to securing 222 yards receiving on an incredible 17.1 yards per reception.
Devonta Freeman, meanwhile, carried the football 65 times and totaled 248 yards. His yards per carry was just 3.8, but that was attributed to a poor start to the season, which can be forgiven seeing that he was a rookie.
Freeman also totaled more receiving yards than Jackson, with 225 (Jackson had 148). The rookie showed excellent flashes at the end of the season, especially in Week 16 against the Saints. Getting rid of Jackson will give both an improving Freeman, and an explosive Smith a chance at more carries.
What about third round draft pick Tevin Coleman?
Next: What can Tevin Coleman add to the run game?