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Free and TeCo for 2019?


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Falcons will consider keeping Freeman-Coleman tandem together

http://www.espn.com/blog/atlanta-falcons/post/_/id/33644/falcons-will-consider-keeping-freeman-coleman-tandem-together

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- At the end of last season, Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said he could envision a scenario in which the team would re-sign running back Tevin Coleman, even after inking starter Devonta Freeman to a long-term contract.

That scenario remains a possibility, according to coach Dan Quinn.

As the 4-9 Falcons dig deeper into the process of evaluating the roster approaching the offseason, it's fair to wonder how the running back situation will come together in 2019. Asked Monday if he thought there was a chance of Freeman and Coleman being the team's backfield duo of the future despite Coleman being in the last year of his rookie deal, Quinn didn't rule it out.

"Yep. For sure," Quinn said. "Everything's on the table. When we're in the scenario that we're in, which we're not very pleased at, you evaluate anything and everything. So, yeah, we're certainly going to consider every single option in every way."

Devonta Freeman, left, and Tevin Coleman have combined to score 64 TDs for the Falcons during their careers. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Whether it all plays out that way remains a question mark, if not doubtful. Freeman, a two-time Pro Bowler, signed a five-year, $41.25 million extension ($22 million guaranteed) through 2022. But he knows nothing is certain about his future with the team despite the deal, especially when folks start throwing around trade scenarios.

Freeman played in just two games this season and remains on injured reserve following groin surgery. He is eligible to return for the Dec. 23 game at Carolina, although there is no guarantee he'll be activated despite the optimism Quinn expressed last Friday.

"For us, the No. 1 thing is keep making progress," Quinn said of Freeman's status. "When we do that, then we'll cross the bridge of what's next in terms of him playing. But keep making progress, first."

Freeman has had a variety of injuries, including multiple concussions and knee problems, which had left some league executives wondering about his durability. But the Falcons, ranked last in the league at 81.2 rushing yards per game, obviously would have fared much better with Freeman's elusiveness and aggressiveness in the lineup. Not to mention Freeman runs routes like a receiver when asked to line up against linebackers. He has 37 touchdowns in 63 career games.

"Another player had said, 'At the end of runs, he lets 'em know,' and I thought that's a clear illustration where he's able to drop his shoulder on a guy to finish a run over his pads and downhill," Quinn said of Freeman. "I think I love the fact that at the end of runs, he can really get downhill and finish. The 4-yard run goes for 8 yards. I'd say it's his change of direction. When somebody is ready to size him up thinking they got the hit, the foot goes in the ground and he explodes. ... He brings a lot of energy to the team."

Quinn said all that without directly addressing if he has any concerns regarding Freeman's long-term health.

At least one opponent believes the absence of Freeman has had a major effect on the Falcons.

"I think he's an X factor for them," said Sheldon Rankins, a star defensive tackle for the rival New Orleans Saints. "I think his ability to run as well on the edges as well as he does inside between the tackles, and his ability in the passing game, kind of takes the offense to a whole new dimension. Without him, they had to kind of go to a committee-type role, and you kind of saw they kind of threw the ball a lot more.

"And I think when that team is really rolling, you've seen in the past, is when they can feed their running backs and they can gash teams with the run game, the play-action pass, get Julio [Jones] deep and those guys. So I think [Freeman]'s an X factor for them, and they've obviously missed him this year. I know they'll be happy whenever they can get him back."

There are mixed reviews about Coleman around the league. One AFC head coach said back in February, "He's a great complement to the starter, and he could fill the role of a starting running back because of his great speed and athleticism. Can't discount his ability to score the football."

Meanwhile, an NFC executive said recently he was surprised Coleman hadn't shown a lot more fire and taken full advantage of starting in place of Freeman, which might indicate he is not ready to assume a starting role. Coleman has rushed for 559 yards and two touchdowns on 138 carries while starting 11 games. For his career, Coleman has 27 touchdowns in 53 games.

Coleman said during the season that he wants to remain with the Falcons. His agent, Adisa Bakari, is the same agent who represents Pittsburgh Steelers running back holdout Le'Veon Bell. So, it would be hard to imagine Coleman accepting a bargain deal if the chance exists for him to secure more money in free agency.

The Falcons have rookie fourth-round pick Ito Smith sharing the load with Coleman, and Smith gives the team a change-of-pace back who can get into the end zone (team-leading four rushing touchdowns). Smith, however, isn't a guy anyone envisions being the Falcons' workhorse back.

The Falcons have drafted a running back in four of the past five drafts -- Freeman in 2014 (fourth round), Coleman in 2015 (third), Brian Hill in 2017 (fifth) and Smith in 2018 (fourth). The last free-agent running back the Falcons signed who made a significant impact was Michael Turner, who signed a six-year, $34.5 million deal ($15 million guarantee) in 2008. Turner had three 1,000-yard seasons and rushed for double-digit touchdowns in each of his five seasons with the team.

Quinn reiterated how important the running game is to success moving ahead, regardless of which players are carrying the load.

"It has to be a part of our identity -- and a big part of that," Quinn said. "I think it adds to the overall circle of the toughness of your team. But it also so clearly sets up the line of scrimmage like we'd like for the run game and the play-action to balance off of one another. Our identity is tied into that."

The other important element, of course, is the play of the offensive line. In all fairness to both Coleman and Smith, the holes haven't been there consistently this season, in large part, due to poor blocking. And if the Falcons plan to have success running the ball beyond this season, they'll need to make sure they have linemen physically capable of getting the job done. They'll probably need to address both guard spots, and the benching of Ryan Schraeder leaves doubts about the right tackle situation.

"There's always things we can do to improve," said center Alex Mack. "If we just block everybody, you could be back there. Unfortunately, [defenses] are good. That's when you need a running back who is making people miss. Some of the runs are 100 percent on those guys doing really good things and making people miss.

"The better we can do to block people, the more space we can open up, the more we can run the ball."

ESPN Saints Reporter Mike Triplett contributed to this story

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We really need BOTH of them back 100% healthy. We saw what this offense did in 2016 with both of them 100%. Neither of them were 100% TOGETHER last season or this season. What frustrates me the most is that Sark hasn't known how to utilize the offense with both of them like Shanahan could. 

Edited by mqg96
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19 minutes ago, WhenFalconsWin said:

Honestly  really don't care about either one at this point. It hasn't shown well of late. I want a  power back with some speed.

Freeman is hurt way too often and his non-blocking self is legendary.

TeCo cannot handle the loD, cannot run anyone over, he's goes down at first contact if he doesn't slip and fall first, and he has poor vision for the holes he does get.

Yeah I'm gonna have to eat crow on Liking Coleman better than Freeman. But Honestly, neither is what we need. Just like you said. Bring in a power back. 

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Freeman, Coleman, Smith or Hill doesn't matter at this point.  I think this is a very good stable of backs and all have their strengths and weaknesses.  I've long been a Coleman fan but unless we get our line right, he might as well be somewhere an OL can give him space to do what he does better than just about anyone...explode through the hole.  I see Free and Ito kind of the same.  Free is the most physical and he is the kind of guy we watch the game for.  Relentless, tough and very skilled.  Ito is slipperier, faster and does not take unnecessary hits and I predict he'll have a long NFL career if our line doesn't get him killed in the backfield.  Not sure what Hill is but he's shown good everywhere but here (glad to see him tried at FB like a lot of us wanted)...last year he also ran behind our garbage reserve OL in preseason.

Thoughts:

Freeman:  Physical, sudden, tough and decent out the backfield but takes unnecessary hits, runs backwards too often, not the best in pass protection and starting to become an injury concern

Coleman:  Fast, excellent one-cut runner, good hands, always falling forward and decent to good in protection.  Requires on space to work (cannot make ops or improvise), impatient, can't cut hard and trips easily.

Smith:  Sudden, patient, good vision, balance, nice hands and decent in pass protection.   Honestly I am having a hard time finding a lot of flaws in Ito.  He's not perfect but I have't seen any bad tendencies that I'd be ready to say is part of who he is.

Hill:  TBD but watching his preaseason film, he looked like the guy out of Idaho...tough steady runner with good balance but hasn't shown much if any of it as a Falcon.

 

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1 hour ago, PriMeTiiMe said:

Coleman won't be back. Ito has proved he is more than capable to be the #2 behind Free. We can draft a RB late or sign one for way cheaper to be the 3rd back.

Freeman behind this O-line wouldn't be as successful either. Yes, we miss Freeman because of how he makes people miss with his moves and making up for our mediocre O-line play, but earlier in the year in the couple games Freeman did play he didn't make much of a difference for us (still lost both games). Coleman has proven that he can be effective too whenever our O-line is really good. I say we need Freeman AND Coleman together 100% healthy behind a good O-line like we did in '16. 

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16 minutes ago, JerseyNo12 said:

I agree. 

Ito has shown he's a capable back. The money that would go to Coleman can be spent building depth in the trenches, starting with Grady Jarrett.

Yeah, Ito and Freeman are good all around backs (Injury concerns aside), Teco's shown this year that he's just fast and not much else. 

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37 minutes ago, mqg96 said:

Freeman behind this O-line wouldn't be as successful either. Yes, we miss Freeman because of how he makes people miss with his moves and making up for our mediocre O-line play, but earlier in the year in the couple games Freeman did play he didn't make much of a difference for us (still lost both games). Coleman has proven that he can be effective too whenever our O-line is really good. I say we need Freeman AND Coleman together 100% healthy behind a good O-line like we did in '16. 

Were already paying Free. That is the difference. No point giving another RB money. Ito is plenty good enough to be the #2.

We can't keep all these defensive players AND pay 2 RBs AND pay for an O-Line AND pay Matt Ryan, Julio, etc. A #2 RB is the least important.

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57 minutes ago, JerseyNo12 said:

I agree. 

Ito has shown he's a capable back. The money that would go to Coleman can be spent building depth in the trenches, starting with Grady Jarrett.

Absolutely, do not need any of the drama Pittsburgh is having right now. Thought it might be possible to keep him, until finding out who his Agent was.

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1 minute ago, Cheap Talk said:

Absolutely, do not need any of the drama Pittsburgh is having right now. Thought it might be possible to keep him, until finding out who his Agent was.

This isn't even remotely similar to the situation Pittsburgh created.  Coleman is getting at MOST a mid level contract (which he shouldn't) or he'll be gone.  He isn't a workhorse every down top 3 RB who is great in both the pass and run game like Bell.  Nor has Pittsburgh paid one running back and are in the situation to of looking to pay another.

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2 minutes ago, IA Falcon07 said:

This isn't even remotely similar to the situation Pittsburgh created.  Coleman is getting at MOST a mid level contract (which he shouldn't) or he'll be gone.  He isn't a workhorse every down top 3 RB who is great in both the pass and run game like Bell.  Nor has Pittsburgh paid one running back and are in the situation to of looking to pay another.

If Coleman held out here, the Falcons would say, "Have a good life".

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10 minutes ago, IA Falcon07 said:

This isn't even remotely similar to the situation Pittsburgh created.  Coleman is getting at MOST a mid level contract (which he shouldn't) or he'll be gone.  He isn't a workhorse every down top 3 RB who is great in both the pass and run game like Bell.  Nor has Pittsburgh paid one running back and are in the situation to of looking to pay another.

PITT offered Bell a darn nice deal that would have made him the top paid RB. HE declined. He held them hostage and unfortunately for him, Conner’s play screwed him.

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Well, I like Coleman.  I "LIKED" Freeman when he was healthy.  I've lost faith in Freeman's ability to stay healthy.  If it doesn't break the bank and you can get Coleman back, by all means keep him.  I think Ito after a very slow start has been really good.  We all know that the OL is responsible for half of our problems.  Lack of running success.  Lack of pass protection.  The RB's and QB bear the other half of the blame.  

That being said, the Falcons still NEED a big back.  So there really isn't room for Coleman, Freeman, Ito and a big RB.  Not enough carries for all.  Unless the move is sign Coleman and make Freeman a June 1st cut.  Technically, they both would be back for short period of time.  

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Why would we want this? They haven't been good since 2016.

I get that we need to fix our OL, but these guys are both done. They are NFL RB's. They have a short shelf life and are replaceable. We need to move on. It's just a shame we married ourselves to Freeman at least for 2019.

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