Two words: Pass Protection. After Matt Ryan was sacked (dare I need to remind you again), a career high of 44 times last season, it was apparent the Falcons needed some help in order to return to the playoffs this coming season and Atlanta is hoping running back Devonta Freeman can help provide a solution to the problem.
He may not the biggest guy on the field (at just 5’8, 206 pounds), but Freeman has qualities that translate very well to the professional level. What he lacks in size he makes up for in power. Freeman has the ability to accelerate to top speed with quick feet to stop-and-go and change direction. He’s got the vision and run balance to get up the field and pick up yards. He’s good at pass blocking and delivers hits with more physicality than his looks offer. Freeman seems to have everything you could want in a running back, but the major concern for Freeman lies in those two not so little words, pass protection.
While Steven Jackson has the resume of a starter, it’s likely we can expect Freeman to be put into the rotation along with Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers, but in order to receive more playing time on the field, the rookie has to excel at pass protection and he has to develop rapidly. Freeman is expected to impress, and during minicamp last week he sparked some attention in head coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan. Smith mentioned the Florida State University alum is picking up the pass protection pretty well, and Ryan commended Freeman for his quickness to study the plays and take them out on the field.
During his career at Florida State, Freeman ran 404 times for 2,255 yards, averaging 5.58 yards per carry, and had 30 touchdowns- pretty impressive running ability if you ask me. If Freeman can apply the same strength in his skills he used during his college career and can prove he can hold up the pass protection, we may be looking at the next Grade-A running back for the Falcons!