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Early Bird Report: ESPN ranks Falcons' backfield among the very best in the NFL


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' place in a ranking of all 32 NFL backfields as well as some high praise for new Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor.



ESPN: Ranking all 32 NFL backfields: Projections and 2018 outlook

The Falcons' offense has been among the most dynamic in the league over recent seasons in part because of their versatile backfield. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are one of the best 1-2 punches in the league, both capable of beating defenses as runners and receivers.

ESPN recently ranked the league’s 32 backfields in an insider piece (so you'll need a subscription to read the whole thing) and the Falcons were high up on the list, although a case could be made that they deserve to be even higher. Atlanta appeared at No. 4 in the rankings behind the Saints, Rams and Steelers.

"If this experiment was instead focused on backfield duos, you'd be hard-pressed to rank Atlanta outside the top two," ESPN's Mike Clay writes. "Since teaming up in 2015, Freeman and Coleman have combined for 1,049 carries for 4,540 yards and 43 touchdowns to go with 223 catches for 2,091 yards and 12 scores. That works out to an outstanding 4.3 YPC and 9.4 YPR. Freeman, who signed a contract extension last August, will continue to lead the Atlanta backfield, but Coleman, who's entering a contract year, will mix in with 10 to 12 touches per game."

Freeman and Coleman combined for 415 total touches, 2,109 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns last season. The Falcons also have a new addition to the backfield in fourth-round draft pick Ito Smith, who was among the most productive running backs in college football history at Southern Miss.

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BIGGEST NEWS FROM AROUND THE NFL Jarvis Landry: Tyrod Taylor has looked 'amazing'

Tyrod Taylor may be among the more underrated quarterbacks in the NFL, but he's already receiving some praise from a new teammate. Appearing on "The Rich Eisen Show" Thursday, new Cleveland Browns receiver Jarvis Landry said his new quarterback has been quite impressive thus far.

"Amazing," Landry told Eisen, according to’s Herbie Teope. "Amazing, man. His leadership, his arm, his accuracy and he's ready, man. He's the starting quarterback, and I'm sure that, obviously, the decision is up to [head coach] Hue [Jackson] and the offensive staff, and stuff like that. But I'm sure they've been highly impressed with [what] he's done through OTAs and minicamp."

Taylor was acquired by the Browns over the offseason in a trade with Buffalo Bills. The Browns also selected former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft.

The Falcons play the Browns in Cleveland in Week 10.

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