By: Skyler Wiercioch
Oh boy, we have been here before, an Atlanta running back, falls to injury, then gets replaced by the backup. Only difference is this time, the roles are reversed.
Devonta Freeman suffered a knee injury in the season opener against Philadelphia, which subsequently sidelined him for weeks 2-4. When he returned in week 5 against Pittsburgh, he injured his foot and aggravated his groin. While the groin seemed to be the least of the Falcons worries, it ended up being what put Freeman on the shelf. On Tuesday afternoon Freeman was placed on IR and the team announced he will be sidelined for at least the next 8 weeks. With the Falcons at 2-4 in such a tough division with the Saints and Panthers, and squeaking out a win vs Tampa Bay, the playoffs seem like a far fetched idea. The Falcons injury bug dates back to week one when they lost Deion Jones and Keanu Neal, and their once intimidating defense now ranks second-worst in the league in terms of pass defense. Matt Bryant injured his hamstring on a successful 57 yard field goal, and now Freeman is due to miss almost the rest of the season. Given their record and circumstances with schedule, a week 14 return seems unlikely for Freeman who signed a 6-year 43 million dollar contract back in August of 2017.
In 2015 Tevin Coleman was the teams starting running back until he suffered a fractured rib and was sidelined until week 5. When he returned, Freeman took his job as if he never even had it. After week 5 Freeman was averaging 5.1 yards per carry, had 362 yards in 3 games, 7 touchdowns, and 17 catches for 177 yards which averages out to 10.7 yards per catch. Tevin Coleman has never started another game while Freeman was healthy since then. Freeman has had his own trouble of injuries but this is the first time where he has missed this many games in a row, and also played in the Pittsburgh game banged up and got another set of injuries. Coleman, who is in a contract year, has an opportunity to campaign for a new deal for the remainder of the year. After going off for 107 yards on the ground against Carolina, he has combined for 134 yards since in the next 4 games on 46 carries averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. He has only found the endzone when Matt Ryan has targeted him.
It goes without saying that Coleman’s production has been very disappointing not only to his fantasy owners, but Dan Quinn’s offense. Ito Smith has scored a touchdown in each of the last 3 games but has not made a statement on the ground yardage wise. The Falcons have a home game against the New York Giants and if the same teams from last week show up this Sunday, then the Falcons are in the driver's seat for a 3-4 record before the bye. Carolina plays Philadelphia, and New Orleans is coming off their bye to face off against the Ravens in Baltimore. Atlanta is facing a must win this week and will have to rely heavily on their run game going forward if they want to get back to playoff contention.
Atlanta currently ranks in the top 8 in passing yards per game, points scored, and yards, but are ranked 27th in rushing yards per game. A ranking they have not been close to since Freeman took over the starting job in 2015. Tevin Coleman was a hot name running through the trade rumor mill, but with Freeman going down for what will likely be the rest of the season, Atlanta is stuck between a rock and a hard place in the trade market. Atlanta finished as the last wild card team in the NFC at 10-6 last year and will have an uphill battle going forward if they look to get back to playing in January.
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