by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Can Devonta Freeman really keep this up? A matchup with the Saints on Thursday night, despite the Falcons taking the loss, failed to slow him down:
Rushing – 13 carries for 100 yards and 1 TD
Receiving – 8 receptions for 56 yards and 1 TD
It’s the third time he’s reached 100 rushing yards in his past four games (and he’s over 100 total yards in each of the past four games). He’s also been a TD machine, scoring in five straight contests (9 rushing TD and 1 receiving TD).
There were doubts entering the year, but an injury to Tevin Coleman (he missed Week 3 & 4) opened the door and he busted through it with his four consecutive monster performances:
Rushing – 84 carries for 462 yards (5.5 YPC) and 8 TD
Receiving – 25 receptions for 233 yards and 1 TD
For the past month he’s been the best running back in the game, but can he maintain it? Remember he’s the same running back who failed to claim the starting job in his rookie season, averaging 3.8 YPC and scoring just 1 TD. That was under a different regime, however, with Dan Quinn now at the helm. While he was the defensive coordinator in Seattle, he saw the success they had with Marshawn Lynch.
Kyle Shanahan was brought in as the offensive coordinator, and he has history of helping teams improve their running game. The Falcons’ official website had this to say about Shanahan after his hiring:
“Leading a Well-Balanced Attack: The Falcons’ rushing attack produced 1,498 yards in 2014, something Shanahan will look to improve next season. He’s had success improving the ground games during previous stops as offensive coordinator. In 2012, Shanahan directed Washington’s offense during its NFC East title run, becoming the first team in NFL history to pass for 3,400 yards and rush for 2,700 yards in the same season. In the same role with the Houston Texans in 2008, he helped the club total 1,846 rushing yards. If such improvements occur with Atlanta’s ground attack, think of the possibilities for the Falcons’ passing game in 2015.”
In 2012 it was Alfred Morris, breaking out as a rookie, who rampaged the NFL to the tune of 1,613 yards and 13 TD. Obviously there’s reason to believe that Freeman can keep the good times coming.
Prior to the 2014 draft NFL.com saw the upside, saying:
“Compactly built, downhill slasher with the agility and balanced skill set to emerge as a workhorse back. Earned the top assignment in a very talented backfield and has a similar build, running style and all-around utility as San Francisco 49ers 2005 third-round pick Frank Gore. Could prove to be a better pro than college player.”
Would we bank on him continuing to be as good as he’s been over the past four weeks? Not quite, but there’s obviously a lot to like and a ton of upside (look no further than Morris’ rookie season as proof of that). He has faced three of the worst defenses against opposing RB during this stretch (Cowboys, Saints & Texans are all among the 10 worst), but he’s looked better than just a matchup benefactor. Things will get a bit tougher moving forward, but that’s not enough of a reason to think a significant falloff is coming.
If you were lucky enough to take the flier on him continue to enjoy the rewards and don’t necessarily view him as a sell high candidate.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com, AtlantaFalcons.com
Make sure to check out all of our Week 6 rankings: