INDIANAPOLIS – The Falcons will need to run the ball more effectively in 2019, especially if they want to do better than a 7-9 finish.
The ability to have a strong rushing attack to pair with one of the league’s top passing offenses is something the Falcons certainly missed in 2018.
Having a healthy Devonta Freeman back in the lineup should help.
“He’s doing well. I’m excited to get him back in the mix,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He’s a factor in the run game for sure based on his slashing style but he’s also a really good receiver. He’s one of those guys who has a lot to prove and heading into the season that’s a good thing. [I told him] his lost year, make it matter.”
The Falcons finished with the No. 27th ranked rushing offense in 2018 averaging 98.3 yards per game.
With Freeman sidelined for majority of the year, Tevin Coleman and rookie Ito Smith were tasked with carrying the load for the Falcons. Coleman has been a consistent offensive weapon for Atlanta over the past four seasons.
In 2018, Coleman rushed for 800 yards on 167 carries.
As one of the players who is scheduled to become a free agent when the new league year begins on March 13, the market for Coleman might be too high for the Falcons to be able to keep him given the five-year extension Freeman was given before the 2017 season.
“Tevin Coleman is a really good football player,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “He did some great things for us this year. Of course, it’s never easy to have two running backs that are going to be in the market at a high-level money wise. Tevin is going to do well wherever he is, whether he is with us or whether he goes somewhere else.”
If the Falcons aren’t able to keep Coleman, Smith showed he’s capable of being a No. 2 option at running back. On 90 carries, Smith rushed for 315 yards.
“He’s certainly showed he’s capable of that,” Quinn said of Smith.
Quinn did hint that if the Falcons aren’t able to keep Coleman on their roster, they’ll be in the market to add a running back or two to compete with Smith.
With nine draft picks, running back could certainly be a position the Falcons target in the mid-to-late rounds based off what happens in free agency.
“If that takes place, then they’ll definitely be other guys we’ll put in the mix to compete with him,” Quinn said.
Regardless of what happens with Coleman and what Smith brings to the table, there’s no denying the impact Freeman makes on the field when healthy.
Freeman played in just two games in the 2018 season before being placed on injured reserve. In the two games he was able to start, he rushed for 68 yards on 14 carries.