Atlanta Falcons best moves of the 2015 offseason – #5


Today, we continue our “Falcons 50” countdown, beginning a new series looking at the Atlanta Falcons’ best five moves of the offseason. What ranks at No. 5?

You can find the full list of “Falcons 50″ posts here.

We are now just two weeks away from the Falcons’ regular season opener with the Philadelphia Eagles. Our “Falcons 50” countdown is into the final stretch, so from here on out we won’t be looking at history, but this upcoming season. It’s been a busy offseason for Atlanta, but there’s been plenty of positive change. What’s the fifth best move?

No. 5 – A reboot at running back

Change was necessary at the running back position after another disappointing season on the ground. Since the 2010 season, when they finished 12th in rushing, the Falcons have ranked 17th, 29th, 32nd and 24th on the ground. Something had to be done.

Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers weren’t getting it done. Jackson carried the football 190 times for 707 yards and six touchdowns last season, and his numbers have been declining with age. Rodgers rushed just 58 times for 217 yards and one score. As a rookie, Devonta Freeman had 65 carries for 248 yards and a touchdown.

Jackson was released and Rodgers joined the Chicago Bears. This meant Freeman was promoted in the depth chart, and more is expected of him in his second year. That wasn’t all, however. Despite needing lots of defensive reinforcements, the Falcons spent a third round pick in May’s draft on Tevin Coleman, a running back out if Indiana. Coleman and Freeman provide the Atlanta backfield with fresh, young blood and healthy competition for the starting gig.

Right now, we don’t know who will start. And we also don’t know how offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan plans on splitting the reps between them. What we do know is that there is high expectations to achieve balance on offense with a strong run game.

It hasn’t looked too promising in preseason, although it’s worth noting both Coleman and Freeman were sidelined for the first two games with hamstring injuries. The rookie Coleman returned for the third game against Miami, although he made just two yards on his four carries. It isn’t a time to panic, though. This is a young running back making his NFL debut against Ndamukong Suh and a very strong defensive front. It didn’t help that the offensive line played so poorly, either.

Coleman has a lot of upside. He’s a violent, aggressive runner who has big-play potential. Freeman can be your between the tackles back too, although his ability to help out in the passing game makes him a dangerous weapon on offense.

Whether these two can provide the spark on offense the Falcons need is yet to be seen. But one thing is for sure, new head coach Dan Quinn wanted change at running back and he has ensured there is hope that this unit can once again finish in the top half of the NFL.

Next: Atlanta Falcons: Five greatest running backs of all-time