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RB Devonta Freeman - Atlanta Falcons

5-8, 206Born: 3-15-1992College: Florida StateDrafted: Round 4

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General News (Fri Feb 3): and Tevin Coleman complement each other well and are both "three-down backs," according to Matt Ryan.

Week 21: vs New England Patriots

All RB vs NE

Mark and Joe say: Tough matchup. Falcons C Alex Mack (ankle, fibula) was limited in practice Monday, January 30, but is expected to see more work as the week progresses, according to head coach Dan Quinn. Mack's presence is key for the Atlanta offensive line, which averaged 4.6 yards per rush during the 2016 regular season, while ranking fifth in the NFL averaging 120.5 rushing yards generated per game. The attack has been less productive so far during the post-season (averaging 100 yards rushing per game at 3.4 yards per carry), but with dual threat backs like Devonta Freeman (14/45/1 rushing and five targets for 4/80/0 receiving vs. Seattle in the Divisional round; 14/42/0 rushing and five targets for 4/42/1 receiving vs. Green Bay in the Conference Championship) and Tevin Coleman (11/57/0 rushing and four targets for 3/22/1 receiving vs. Seattle; 11/29/1 rushing with three targets for 3/35/0 receiving vs. Green Bay), the total yardage generated by the running backs has been robust despite the sub-four-yards-per-carry average. Atlanta's Dynamic Duo come into the Super Bowl playing very well indeed. New England held the Texans to 23/105/0 rushing during their 16-34 win at Foxboro during the Divisional round of the playoffs, and then limited the LeVeon Bell-deprived Steelers to 20/54/1 rushing during the Conference Championships (they've averaged 79.5 rushing yards allowed per game so far in the post-season, with just one rushing score given out). New England wound up 2016 regular season ranked third in the NFL (tied with New York Giants) averaging 88.6 rushing yards allowed per game, with just six rushing scores given out all year (least rushing TDs allowed in the NFL over 16 games), and Houston didn't add to that total last weekend. The Patriots averaged a mere 10.4 fantasy points per game allowed during Weeks 15-17, also least allowed in the NFL during that time span. The Patriots are playing very tough rush defense during post-season, in line with their top-five finish during regular season. This is a tough matchup for the Atlanta running backs.

Recent Stats and Projections

WEEKOPPoSNAPRSHYDTDTARGRECYDTDFumLPts
17 vs NO 35 12 96 1 5 5 81 0 0 23.7
19 vs SEA 44 14 45 1 5 4 80 0 0 18.5
20 vs GB 0 14 42 0 5 4 42 1 0 14.4
21 vs NE 0 11 75 1 2 2 46 0 0 18.1
21 vs NE PROJ-Dodds * 12 * * 4 * * * *
21 vs NE PROJ-Tremblay * 13 * * 4 * * * *
21 vs NE PROJ-Bloom * 17 * * 3 * * * *

Recent Game Summaries

2016 Week 20 vs GB (14 / 42 / 0 rush, 5 / 4 / 42 / 1 rec)

Freeman didn't have a strong day in the box score on the ground, but was effective in the passing game. Atlanta ran the ball in short yardage and red zone situations and passed at will. It meant that Freeman's opportunities were in compressed areas of the field. He was effective, but not statistically productive.

2016 Week 19 vs SEA (14 / 45 / 1 rush, 5 / 4 / 80 / 0 rec)

Atlantafs lead back began the game strong but Seattlefs defense, including a quick gain off left tackle for 8 yards to begin the first drive and then a more impressive run the following play where he worked to the right and successfully reversed field due to penetration for a first down. Seattle limited Freeman to short gains for much of the half but he generated big plays in the third quarter with a seven-yard gain on a play where All-Pro defensive lineman Michael Bennett got hurt and followed with a tough run up the middle to the Seattle 1 that set up a one-yard touchdown plunge. Late in the third quarter, Ryan hit Freeman on a circle route against the blitz and Freeman made replacement safety Terrell miss badly with a juke that led to a 53-yard gain on a drive that padded Atlantafs lead.

2016 Week 17 vs NO (12 / 96 / 1 rush, 5 / 5 / 81 / 0 rec)

The Falcons runner started off strong during the first drive, earning a first down early and then taking a pass over the middle to the right flat for a 35-yard gain to get into the red zone. Late in the first quarter, Freeman found a crease up the middle from a two tight end unbalanced set at the 25 of Atlanta and scored from 75 yards away. The path he took looked eerily similar to Marshawn Lynch's Beast Quake run but without any contact to deal with. Most of his yardage on the day came on his first two runs and nearly half of his receiving yards came on the first drive. Atlanta built enough of a lead early on that Atlanta was up by 27 until later in the fourth quarter.

2016 Week 16 vs CAR (13 / 53 / 0 rush, 8 / 8 / 35 / 0 rec)

Freeman got the first down on a second and short run around right end for seven yards. He pushed ahead for a gain of four yards between the tackles on his second run on the following play to set up 2nd and 6. Freeman took a dump-off on the third straight play heading to him, earning the first down.He gained 10 yards on an I formation run up the middle on a cutback off the fullback's pancake of the linebacker. He followed with a stuff for a loss of seven against Jake Matthews. He earned a pair of four-yard gains off right tackle early in the second quarter. Freeman earned 9 yards off left guard with a dip downhill and inside the linebackers with 8:00 left to reach the Carolina 8. Freeman beat Thomas Davis in the right flat on third down to set up first and goal from the five wth 6:33 in the half. He earned a pair of short passes after the Jalen Collins INT with a couple of minutes left to get inside the Carolina 15. Good second and third efforts up the middle for five yards during the mid-third quarter where the initial crease was tight. Freeman took a 3rd and 1 shotgun run and bounced the play to the backside and made a second bounce on the short corner for a 10-yard gain and kept Atlanta in a four-minute offense.

2016 Week 15 vs SF (20 / 139 / 3 rush, 2 / 2 / 16 / 0 rec)

Freeman ran up 155 total yards and three touchdowns, yet his strong game against San Francisco could have been much bigger. Freeman rarely saw a well-defended hole, regularly having free access to the second or third level of the 49ers defense. Even with three touchdowns, two more were within reach for Freeman, going out of bounds at the one-yard-line on one drive and losing a fumble (the first fumble by any Atlanta back this year) on a goal line carry later in the first half. Freeman did not face much contact as Atlanta's offensive line dominated throughout the game. Limiting Freeman's overall production was Tevin Coleman seeing a hearty 16 touches himself, Freeman having just two targets (second-lowest total of the season to-date), and Atlanta pulling their starters by the mid-fourth quarter in the comfortable home win.

2016 Week 14 vs LA (6 / 6 / 0 rush, 3 / 2 / 12 / 0 rec)

The back was stuffed off repeatedly in this game and most of his carries went for short yardage. He took a hard hit from defensive lineman Dominic Easley who dropped into coverage on a 3rd and 10 during the first half and dropped the back a yard shy of the marker. Freeman's best gains came on screens and draws this week and with a strong lead, Atlanta fed the ball more often to Tevin Coleman and eventually reserve Terron Ward.

2016 Week 13 vs KC (15 / 56 / 2 rush, 5 / 4 / 49 / 0 rec)

Freeman ran well all day. He had two strong gains on the first drive and a reception that took Atlanta from midfield to the red zone. After a pass interference penalty committed against Austin Hooper at the goal line, Freeman ended the series with a one-yard touchdown plunge. This was the first of two one-yard touchdowns for the Falcons runner in the game. Freeman routinely made the first defender miss--often in the backfield--and he made some beautiful gains of 5-10 yards where he made multiple defenders miss. His biggest gain of the day was an 18-yard screen pass during the third series of the game. He also had 14-yard gain off right tackle in the third quarter and a 13-yarder later in the game. Freeman was a huge reason Atlanta stayed in this game.

2016 Week 12 vs ARI (16 / 60 / 2 rush, 3 / 2 / 17 / 0 rec)

Freeman once again displayed a great combo of patience and decisiveness on zone plays off tackle. His first strong run was a cutback from left tackle to right tackle for a 16-yard gain. He scored on a one-yard run setup by a third-down defensive pass interference penalty on Patrick Peterson. Although Freeman dropped a 2nd and 15 route up the middle form the backfield, it was a rushed throw with bad placement high on his back shoulder. He also got stuffed on a fake end around. These were the only difficult plays of Freeman's afternoon. He earned strong gains on crossing routes and screen routes late in the first half and early in the second half. He later got inside the 10 with a run off right tackle that set up a Tevin Coleman touchdown and then scored his second touchdown to salt away the victory with a bounce outside of penetration that forced his lineman into the backfield.

2016 Week 10 vs PHI (12 / 49 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 32 / 0 rec)

The Falcons back was productive in the first half but the Eagles' lead forced Atlanta from its game script and the Atlanta runner couldn't earn the type of carries needed for a productive day. Even so, routinely earned 4-6 yards on inside runs, broke tackles, and made the first or second defender miss. He also had gains of 15, 8, and 11 as a receiver, including an 8-yard screen on the third play of the game and a 15-yard reception on a scramble drill with Ryan. There was a long pass up the left sideline to Freeman in the fourth quarter that would have earned him at least 25-30 yards, but rookie Joshua Perkins committed a pass interference penalty on the play and it nullified Freeman's gain.

2016 Week 9 vs TB (17 / 77 / 0 rush, 2 / 2 / 28 / 0 rec)

The Falcons' running back was limited more by the big lead that the Falcons opened during the first three quarters than the Tamp defense. Freeman routinely found gains up the middle for 5-7 yards and bounced two runs outside for gains over 10 yards. He also had a 27-yard gain on a circle route that he cut across the field. Freeman looked healthy and routinely made the first man miss and had a few runs with multiple pretty cuts to earn extra yards.

2016 Week 8 vs GB (11 / 35 / 1 rush, 6 / 4 / 23 / 1 rec)

Atlanta's leading rusher entered the game with a hip injury and got off to a slow start. He dropped a throw-out as slot right from midfield in the third empty set play to begin the game. He was then stuffed for a loss on an off-tackle run on the next play. Even if he gained any yards, Atlanta committed an illegal formation penalty--one of two on the drive that stalled the Falcons' effort. Freeman's best run of the day was a pitch to left end for about 12 yards on fourth down when Atlanta faked the dive first. Two plays later, Freeman got open up the left flat on a swing route inside the Packers' 25, but Ryan's pass was tipped at the line. Freeman's efforts looked a lot like what was mentioned above for the rest of the day; stuffed in the backfield for short losses, or gains over five yards. After getting stuffed at the Green Bay five, he made an excellent start-stop move on the LB less than a yard over him to set up a crease for a score on a screen pass. He scored again later in the game after getting stuffed twice inside the five but found a wide open crease up the middle on 3rd and 2 with 2:42 left. ward

2016 Week 7 vs SD (15 / 58 / 0 rush, 6 / 5 / 42 / 0 rec)

Whether or not it was intentional, Altanta created a pattern where it gave Freeman the ball on zone plays to the left and Tevin Coleman a mix of zone and gap plays to the right. Coleman had far more success early. Late in the third quarter, Freeman and the offensive line heated up on the left side and the veteran had multiple runs with good creases or he displayed stop-start agility and burst that helped him create gaps that weren't originally there. One of those was a gain where he made two men miss within a yard of the line of scrimmage to create a crease for a gain of at least 12 yards. It was part of a slew of runs where Freeman gained at least 8 yards on each carry. The Falcons also switched up with its blocking scheme for Freeman and ran a gap play that surprised the defense and earned a strong gain. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Freeman was stuffed on a 4th and 1 play in overtime when linebacker Denzel Perryman made a great play shooting the gap to drop Freeman for a loss, leading to a game-winning field goal for the Chargers. With Coleman suffering a hamstring in the second half, Freeman could have at least a week with the workload to himself.

2016 Week 6 vs SEA (12 / 40 / 0 rush, 5 / 3 / 10 / 0 rec)

Seattle's defensive front, led by Michael Bennett bottled up the Falcons ground game early. Freeman lost yards multiple times in the first half and didn't find consistent room until Jake Matthews cut blocked Bennett at the knees and forced the Pro Bowl DE from the game. After that, Freeman earned consistent gains off tackle or around end. His best gain was a 20-yard stretch play to the right side. He also had gains of 10 and 8 yards during the second half and it helped the Falcons loosen up the Seattle defense for plays off boot action.

2016 Week 5 vs DEN (23 / 88 / 1 rush, 5 / 3 / 35 / 0 rec)

Atlanta's starter scored on a 4th-down goal line plunge from the one. He later killed Denver up the middle for a 15-yard gain through a wide open crease. Freeman's best gains were runs up the middle and a circle route on 3rd and 18 to put Atlanta in field goal range and led to a 10-point advantage. Freeman also drew a holding penalty against a Broncos' linebacker while running a wheel route on third down, getting Atlanta across midfield. Freeman finished the day with multiple gains of at least 8 yards on Denver's defense.

2016 Week 4 vs CAR (13 / 57 / 1 rush, 3 / 2 / 7 / 0 rec)

Freeman is still the best overall runner in the offense. The difference is his skill between the tackles. After penetration cut down Freeman for a four-yard loss to begin the game, the Falcons' back made the adjustment and consistently found cutbacks for nice gains. The first was a run of 19 yards where the cutback from right guard to left end and got Atlanta into the red zone. Freeman followed up with a 13-yard score up the middle where he found a second crease in the hole and cut to it for the open field up the middle. He also had consecutive carries of 11 and 9 yards on outside zone runs to the left side.

2016 Week 3 vs NO (14 / 152 / 0 rush, 5 / 5 / 55 / 1 rec)

Freeman had four career highlight-worthy plays tonight in route to a 152-yard rushing performance and 207 yards from scrimmage. The first was a cutback from left end to the right flat that included a stiff-arm on the safety that looked reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch's "get off me" moment during his Beast Quake run. He later delivered a 36-yard gain up the left side of the line on a stretch play, breaking one of Jairus Byrd's ankles with a move from 15 yards away. Late in the game, Freeman ran to the right sideline and reversed his field all the way to the left sideline and slid to the ground to keep the clock running to the two-minute warning. Freeman followed that play up with a 48-yard cutback run to the right flat, breaking Byrd's other ankle on his way to the Saints four where Atlanta killed the clock with the win. In between these runs, Freeman caught a touchdown pass on a swing route and a 26-yard pass on a scramble drill with Matt Ryan to begin the second half.

2016 Week 2 vs OAK (17 / 93 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)

Give Freeman room to run and he hits double sand trips all day long. The right side of the Atlanta line dominated the Raiders' front and most of Freeman's gains came on these attempts. Despite this fact, he began the day with a strong cut in the hole to the left side for eight yards and a few plays later, a gain of eight on a pitch to the left. Some of his gains over right guard included a huge hole for 11 on third drive and then 6 the play after that. During the fourth series he earned another 18 yards up the right side to get Atlanta inside the Oakland 10. Although Tevin Coleman scored through a nice crease and pulled a defensive back to the goal line for the final three yards, Freeman once again was more creative and consistent up the middle.

2016 Week 1 vs TB (11 / 20 / 0 rush, 4 / 4 / 20 / 0 rec)

Freeman commanded a lot of attention from the Tampa Bay defense and the Falcons exploited it with play-action passes off read-option looks that resulted in a 59-yard play to Mohamed Sanu and later led to a field goal. It also led to a chain-moving catch and run by Julio Jones in the third quarter. Although Tevin Coleman made bigger plays, Freeman earned the bulk of the carries between the tackles and, after a 47-yard swing pass to Coleman, he earned consecutive touches in the red zone. Unfortunately for Freeman, Tampa Bay sniffed out the second shovel pass Atlanta used with Freeman that afternoon and stuffed him for a five-yard loss that essentially nullified the short gain Freeman earned the play prior. He found a huge hole on an outside zone play for his strongest gain of 10 yards. It set up a deep cross to Julio Jones off the play fake that Jones dropped after contact. This week, Freeman was used more as a decoy between the 20s to set up the passing game and in a predictable fashion in the red area with minimal results. Freeman had fewer openings than Coleman as a runner. It will be worth seeing if Coleman continues to earn big-play opportunities with Freeman as a match-up decoy. If so, look for Freeman to benefit from the attention teams will have to pay to Coleman outside.

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