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Atlanta Falcons Position Preview: Running Backs


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The Atlanta Falcons begin training camp July 31 at their home facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

Leading up to the start of camp, we'll take a look at the team, position by position. We started with the quarterbacks and now move on to the running backs.

Running backs

The cast: Devonta Freeman (2nd season), Tevin Coleman (1st season), Antone Smith (6th season), Jerome Smith (2nd season), Terron Ward (1st season), Patrick DiMarco (fullback, 4th season), Collin Mooney (fullback, 3rd season)

2015 cap numbers: Antone Smith ($1.4 million), DiMarco ($697,500), Freeman ($631,106), Coleman ($621,311), Mooney ($510,000), Jerome Smith ($435,000), Ward ($435,000)

The coach: Bobby Turner (1st season with team)

Key number: Last season, the Falcons ranked 24th in the league in rushing yards per game (93.6 YPG) and ranked 21st in rushing yards per play (4.03 YPP).

For starters: It's too early to declare a winner, but Freeman carries the lead at running back heading into training camp. He impressed coach Dan Quinn as well as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan with his ability to catch the ball out the backfield. In fact, Shanahan said Freeman has a chance to really excel in both the run and pass game. Freeman showed flashes of his unique ability last season as a rookie when he gained 473 all-purpose yards on 95 touches. If he can become a consistent blocker in pass protection, Freeman should be just fine. He definitely has the drive inside of him and has the long-term goal of being in the MVP conversation one day. For now, the Falcons would be content with Freeman being the team's most valuable running back.

Backup plan: When Coleman was drafted in the third round out of Indiana, he immediately declared himself a contender for the starting job. When a guy runs for more than 2,000 yards in college against competition that included the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes, there's reason for him to be confident. Coleman easily could have been drafted higher, but he knows some teams were scared away by both his broken toe and his carrying of the sickel cell trait. Regardless, folks around the league are well aware of his big-play ability. Coleman had 25 runs of 40-plus yards last season, including a 90-yard touchdown against Ohio State. Shanahan's outside zone-blocking scheme, which encourages running backs to have a one-cut-and-go mentality, should fit Coleman well, but it should work for Freeman as well. The scheme will make the competition between the two playmakers that much more exciting. And while we're on the subject of big plays, let's not forget about Antone Smith. The Falcons have to find a way to utilize a guy who averaged 51 yards on five scoring plays last season before breaking his leg.

Battle at fullback: There's an ongoing battle at fullback between the incumbent, DiMarco, and the newcomer, Mooney. It's highly doubtful the Falcons will keep both players, although both bring special-teams value. Special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong has raved about DiMarco's ability in the past. However, Mooney is a guy targeted by the new regime under Quinn, so change could be in the works.

http://espn.go.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/14261/atlanta-falcons-position-preview-running-backs

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25 40+yards in college wow. If he could give us at least 2 40+ yards a game for 16 games then you add that with freeman, a smith, and the under 40 yards he could run then our run game will be miles better.

We should get 100+ yard running games from our backs no excuses.

Unless.....our oline will be THAT bad.

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